[Marxism] Show trial, show execution, and lawless regime (Nation blogger on Saddam's hanging in the Green Zone)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Dec 30 15:00:21 MST 2006

BLOG | Posted 12/30/2006 @ 01:57am 
A Show Trial and a Show Execution 
John Nichols 
Convicted in a show trial that certainly appeared to have been timed to
finish on the eve of last month's US elections, Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein was hanged in a show execution that just as certainly seems to have
been timed to be carried out before the end of the worst year of the Iraq

Hussein was a bad player -- a totalitarian dictator who, with tacit approval
from the U.S. and other western nation during the 1980s, killed his own
people and waged a mad war with Iran. He needed to be held to account. But
even bad players deserve fair trials, honest judgments and justly-applied
punishments. The former dictator got none of these. 

According to Human Rights Watch, which has a long and honorable history of
documenting and challenging the abuses of Hussein's former government, the
execution early Saturday morning followed "a deeply flawed trial" and "marks
a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in

"The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the
way it treats its worst offenders," says Richard Dicker, director of Human
Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "History will judge these
actions harshly." 

For fifteen years, Human Rights Watch had demanded that Hussein be brought
to justice for what the group has rightly described as "massive human rights
violations." But the group argues that Hussein was not brought to justice. 

In addition to objecting at the most fundamental level to the use of the
barbaric practice of state-sponsored execution--which is outlawed by the
vast majority of the world's nations--Human Rights Watch notes that Hussein
was killed before being tried for some of his most well-documented acts of

The group notes the trial that did take place was fundamentally flawed. 

A niney-seven-page report by Human Rights Watch, issued late last month,
details the severe problems with the trial. The report, based on close
monitoring of the prosecution of the former president, found that: 

."(The) Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi
government actions that threatened the independence and perceived
impartiality of the court." 

. The Iraqi administrators, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers lacked
sufficient training and expertise "to fairly and effectively try crimes of
this magnitude." 

. The government did not protect defense lawyers--three of whom were killed
during the trial--or key witnesses. 

. "(There were) serious flaws in the trial, including failures to disclose
key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants' right to question
prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge's demonstrations of bias." 

. "Hussein's defense lawyers had 30 days to file an appeal from the November
5 verdict. However, the trial judgment was only made available to them on
November 22, leaving just two weeks to respond." 

The report did not study the appeals process, But the speed with which the
tribunal's verdict and sentence were confirmed suggests that the Iraqi
Appeals Chamber failed to seriously consider the legal arguments advanced by
Hussein's able--if violently harassed--legal team. 

"It defies imagination that the Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly
reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defense's written arguments in less
than three weeks' time," said Dicker. "The appeals process appears even more
flawed than the trial." 

There will, of course, be those who counter criticism of the process by
pointing out that Saddam Hussein did not give the victims of his cruel
dictates fair trials or just sentences. That is certainly true. 

But such statements represent a stinging indictment of the new Iraqi
government and its judiciary. With all the support of the United States
government, with massive resources and access to the best legal advice in
the world, with all the lessons of the past, Iraq has a legal system that
delivers no better justice than that of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. 

This is the ugly legacy of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq: An awful
mess of a country that cannot even get the trial and punishment of deposed
dictator right, a justice system that schedules the taking of life for
political and propaganda purposes, a thuggishly brutal state that executes
according to whim rather than legal standard. 

According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, "There was no comment from the
White House, which was determined that the execution should appear to be an
Iraqi event." The central role played by the US government in the process
was not lost on the Telegraph, however, as the newspaper noted that: "the
transfer of Saddam from American to Iraqi custody meant his death was

The term "transfer" is of course being used in a loose sense, as Hussein was
hung not in an Iraqi prison but within the American-controlled Green Zone in
central Baghdad. 

Now that the killing is done, the governments of Iraq and the United States
have confirmed what may have been the worst fear of those who condemned both
Saddam Hussein and the US invasion and occupation that removed him from
power. The crude lawlessness of Hussein has been replaced by the calculated
lawlessness of a new regime. 


More information about the Marxism mailing list