First Published: 2003-12-11

 
Fear of Iraqi war crimes tribunal's credibility
 

Legal experts fear Iraqi war crimes tribunal could be seen as 'US puppet show', propose UN role in trials

 

Middle East Online

By Stephanie van den Berg - THE HAGUE

The war crimes tribunal set up by Iraq's US-installed interim leadership smacks too much of victor's justice, say experts on international law, who fear its credibility will be undermined.

"Our concern is that behind the veneer of an Iraqi-led process it will really be the United States that will be calling the shots," Reed Brody, an expert on international prosecutions for Human Rights Watch said.

On Wednesday the Iraq's Governing Council in Baghdad announced the establishment of a special tribunal to try war crimes perpetrated under Saddam Hussein, who was ousted eight months ago by US-led forces.

Legal experts agree that Saddam should be brought to justice for the massive crimes he has committed against the Iraqi people, but fear that the new court could be seen as "a US puppet show", according to Brody.

The statute of the court is not yet known, but the council said it would be based on Iraqi law as well as international law with Iraqi judges presiding.

Iraq's penal code does not recognise genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, and those crimes are expected to be tried on the basis of international law. The court will also be able to try fugitives, like Saddam, in absentia.

"A trial of Saddam Hussein in absentia would really be a show trial, a pretext by the US and the Iraqi opposition to justify the US-led attack on Iraq," says John Jones, a London barrister who has worked with the UN war crimes courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and was the chief of the defence office in the UN-backed Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal.

If the council decides to reinstate the death penalty, as it is said to be considering, the court "will really fall foul of international standards", he added.

Other concerns are being raised about the special court, including finding enough Iraqi judges and prosecutors that will be seen as impartial - untainted by Saddam's regime or seen as US stooges.

"It will be very difficult to find people who have clean hands," Avril McDonald, with The Hague-based T.M.C. Asser Institute for legal studies, said.

She also points out practical problems.

"I do not think the country is ready for it, things need to calm down there. You cannot secure the protection of witnesses and court officials," McDonald explained.

Everyone that will go before the court either as a witness or a defendant will be a target, she said.

"If you cannot protect a Red Cross building how will you protect a court?" she asks.

Experts agreed that the Iraqi tribunal should work with the United Nations to ensure that trials will be impartial.

"Bring it under the UN and take it away from the Iraqi governing council, which is a political organ, and the US," Jones recommends.

Human Rights Watch also proposes a role for the UN with Iraqi judges and prosecutors mixed with international judges and prosecutors who are used to trying war crimes cases.

"The only way to set it up is hold it in another country and internationalise the process," McDonald agrees.

As an example they point to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone which is UN backed but not a UN institution like the courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and based on a mixture of international and national law.

The newly created International Criminal Court (ICC), which began work in July 2002, cannot deal with war crimes or crimes against humanity in Iraq as neither the United States nor Iraq has signed the statute and the court has no jurisdiction over countries that are not parties to the court.

 

Yemen retakes biggest airbase from rebels

Britain extends air strikes in Iraq by a year

President of Iraq Kurdistan vows to avenge Yazidi minority

US agrees to ‘expedite’ arms sales to Gulf countries

Saudi king cuts short French Riviera holiday

Two Turkish soldiers killed in new PKK attack

US may take 'additional steps' to defend allied fighters in Syria

Israel ex-security chiefs to Netanyahu: Accept Iran deal as ‘fait accompli’

Turkey will do 'whatever necessary' in fight against militants

PKK claims deadly suicide bombing against troops in eastern Turkey

Sudan rebels offered guarantees to attend talks

Pro-Hadi forces target rebel-held base as coalition forces enter Aden

Israel's president threatened over 'Jewish Terrorism' comments

French beach returns to public after departure of Saudi King

Syria army plane crashes in rebel-held town of Ariha

Iran bans newspaper owned by nuclear deal critic

More Yemen refugees look for shelter in Djibouti

Erdogan: Putin may give up on Assad

Yemen rebel leader says political settlement still possible

Egypt leader amends electoral law

Kerry in Qatar for talks on Iran nuclear deal

UAE prosecutor refers 41 people to trial on terrorism charges

Kerry to Middle East allies: Iran deal will make region safer

Egypt court again postpones verdict in retrial of Jazeera reporters

Al-Nusra Front releases video to show ‘capture’ of US-trained rebels

Israel faces mounting pressure after baby killing in arson attack

'PKK suicide attack' kills two soldiers in eastern Turkey

Egypt court postpones verdict on brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri

Immigration surpasses economy as major concern in Europe

Plane crash kills family members of Bin Laden

Iraq protesters vent anger over poor services

ISIS flexes muscles in eastern Libya

Syria army pushes back rebels near Latakia province

Arbil urges PKK to move out of Iraq Kurdistan

Yemen government returns to Aden with eyes set on Sanaa

Erdogan calls for early elections if no coalition

Palestinian baby killed in arson attack by Jewish settlers

Kurds in Diyarbakir fear return to war

State of emergency in Tunisia extended

Jerusalem Gay Pride attack suspect lashes out in court

'Kurdish Obama' faces his biggest test

Yemen blockade 'killing' as many civilians as war

EU urges Israel to show 'zero tolerance for settler violence'

Cash-strapped Tunisia's Syphax airline grounds flights

Pentagon denies US-trained rebels captured in Syria