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.

 

UN envoy in Moscow to save Syrian truce

UN envoy seeks to restart Yemen peace talks

Iraq reform process in limbo after Green Zone storming

US soldier feared killed in Iraq’s Kurdistan

Saudi Minister 'not satisfied' with level of female employment

OPCW warns ISIS may be making chemical weapons

French court says 'Carlos the Jackal' must face trial for 1974 attack

UN demands protection of hospitals in armed conflicts

Jewish settler who led burning alive of Palestinian teen receives life sentence

Italy ready to raise shipwreck off Libya coast

Heavy airstrikes kill dozens in ISIS Syria bastion

Deadly intra-rebel clashes rock eastern part of Syria capital

German 'jihadist' goes on trial for Syria war crimes

Number of people held in solitary confinement doubles in Israel

UN fears operation near Mosul will displace 30,000 more Iraqis

Turkey Nobel Laureate shows solidarity with veteran writer, Murat Belge

Russian FM hopes for Aleppo ceasefire in 'next few hours'

Israel Labour mulls break with British party over anti-Semitism claims

Saudi to ensure Binladin Group resolves wage issues

Tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims flock to Baghdad shrine

EU set to grant Turkey visa-free travel in migrant deal

Syria rebels strike hospital in regime-held Aleppo

Israel destroys home of Palestinian suspect's family

Saudi women to get copy of marriage contracts

EU praises Turkey efforts to meet criteria for visa deal

Sudan claims 'sovereign rights' in dispute with Egypt

Amnesty denounces ‘shocking’ conditions in Iraq detention centre

Carnage in Iraq as deadly car bomb targets Shiite pilgrims

PKK attack kills at least one soldier in southeast Turkey

Turkey pounds ISIS positions in Syria

Five years on, bin Laden doctor languishes in jail

Top Sudan court lifts ban on leading newspaper

Iran to grant citizenship to families of killed foreign recruits

Egypt journalists hold sit-in after police raid of press syndicate

US in desperate bid to salvage Syria ceasefire

Iraq protesters quit Green Zone after unprecedented breach

Up to 100 people missing in two Mediterranean shipwrecks

Aden police chief survives new assassination attempt

ISIS claims rare deadly bombings in southern Iraq

Tight security marks world rallies to celebrate Labour Day

Yemen government suspends 'direct' talks with rebels

Russia, US in bids to freeze fighting in Syria's Aleppo

Deadly car bomb hits Turkey refugee hub near Syria border

Iraq PM calls for punishment of protesters involved in violence

Yemen government forces seize Qaeda training camp