Iraq Judiciary has outlined their program to try their domestic war criminals who blossomed under the Sadam regime. The UN has no part in the process (sounds proper to me) and they are screaming bloody murder. Also, the “human rights” organizations (read that as subunits of the UN) are screaming also. This report gives a quick overview of the Iraqui plan. And, who better to preside than Judge Nor Al-Din? After all, if a judge had not been in the Sadam slammer, how could he separate the wheat from the chaf?
This old bear thinks the US, Austrailia, and Britain has worked diligently assisting the Iraquis to get to this point. They are doing a fine job so far, so let’s get on with the process.
Iraq to Create Tribunal to Prosecute Hussein War Crimes
Iraq, Dec. 7 — Iraq’s political leaders are expected to vote this week to create a special court to try members of Saddam Hussein’s government on charges varying from genocide to squandering the nation’s wealth.
A draft law, prepared in close collaboration with Bush administration lawyers, envisions an all-Iraqi tribunal with sweeping powers to prosecute individuals accused of the mass executions, expulsions and lethal gassing of their own people
over the past 35 years.
Unlike most of the war crimes tribunals of the past decade, convened to judge wholesale slaughters in places like Sierra Leone and Rwanda, the proposed Iraqi court would not provide a role for the United Nations.
Nor would it necessarily include foreign jurists with experience in international human rights laws and rules of evidence that were developed in recent years for prosecuting crimes against humanity, according to Iraqi and American officials who have
worked on the draft law for months.
While the proposal may satisfy the many Iraqis who have been clamoring for vengeance through the public trial of their former leaders, it has troubled many human rights groups that had
hoped, just as eagerly, to take advantage of international expertise to bring Mr. Hussein’s government to account.
“This is the first time you’ve had a deliberate avoidance of a genuine international component,” said Richard Dicker, an official with Human Rights Watch in New York. “And these trials are so hugely important for bringing some sense of justice for
victims and for establishing respect for the rules of law as a means of redress in Iraq.”
Few people, other than lawyers in the American-led occupation administration and some Iraqis, have seen the draft law. It will probably be presented to the Iraqi Governing Council here on Wednesday, according to Dara Nor al-Din, a Baghdad judge and
council member who helped write the proposal.
He said the proposal, which calls for a five-judge panel to decide cases based both on international and Iraqi criminal law, reflects the widespread belief that Iraqis should be the ones to expose the crimes committed against them and sit in judgment of the accused.
Judge Nor al-Din was imprisoned by Mr. Hussein last year, after he ruled in a property case that the Iraqi Constitution took precedence over the decisions of Mr. Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council. He was released from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in a general amnesty in October 2002.
In his view, the tribunal would not hear charges against just the top officials of the old government — 38 of 55 senior officials identified by the American military are in American custody in Iraq — but also against anyone accused of knowingly taking part in mass killings, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
“To give you an example, take the artillery soldier whose officer gave him chemical weapons to fire,” the judge said. “The soldier didn’t know they were chemical weapons, but the officer knew. In that case we would charge the officer. But if we have
evidence that the soldier knew, we would charge him with the crime, too.”
The special court also would use a 1958 Iraqi law as the basis for bringing charges against members of the former government and their allies. That law made it a capital crime to destabilize or threaten Iraq, such as by taking the country into wars, and to waste the nation’s resources, according to Judge
The inclusion of that law, which dates from the revolution that overthrew the British-backed king, has also generated concern among outside human rights lawyers. They said the court could drown in cases, instead of concentrating on major international crimes.
“My real concern is that this could degenerate into political show trials,” said Mr. Dicker of Human Rights Watch.
If the draft law is approved by the Governing Council, as expected, the tribunal might be ready to hear its first case in six months, Judge Nor al-Din said. That would be just about the time that a new Iraqi assembly is supposed to elect a
provisional government to run the country, which has been promised its independence by President Bush by July.
One concern expressed by human rights experts, however, is that the decisions of such an Iraqi court would be tainted because it would be formed while the country was under occupation.
“These trials are a matter of global concern and fundamental importance to the Middle East,” said Paul van Zyl, director of country programs for the International Center for Transitional Justice. “They should send a strong human rights signal to Syria, to Iran, to the Saudis, that one day they could be held to account by their own people.”
Instead, he suggested, Iraq risks having its tribunal dismissed as a tool of the United States rather than an expression of an independent nation’s quest for justice. “The autocrats of the world,” he said, “will be able to discredit the trials.”
The occupation authority has taken some pains to demonstrate that the special court would be a solely Iraqi creation.
L. Paul Bremer III, the American overseer of Iraq, has formally delegated legislative authority to the Governing Council for purposes of adopting a tribunal law, meaning he does not have to
sign the law for it to take force. Still, Mr. Bremer, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, could amend or cancel any decision by the Iraqi leaders.
In any case, the law for a war crimes tribunal would bear his imprint. “We have been working very closely with the Governing Council on this,” said a lawyer with the authority, “and we’re
all very happy with it.”
The draft law, he added, also had the approval of the Pentagon and the State Department, as well as the governments of Britain and Australia, which are taking part in running the occupation.
In many ways, Iraq would be starting from scratch with a special tribunal. Judges and investigators need training in international human rights law and prosecution. The court would need a building, staff, equipment, storage space for tons of documents and the technology to evaluate records and forensic evidence from the more than 250 confirmed mass grave sites.
It would also have to assess millions of documents that were seized from secret police files and prisons after the fall of the old government. Many records are now in the hands of Iraqi political parties, rights groups and prisoner ssociations.
Judge Nor al-Din, however, said Iraqis would not be deterred.
“It will take time,” he said. “But it won’t take forever.”