Trial of Saddam Hussein: ICJ urges fundamental rethink if all participants cannot be effectively protected

by | Dec 2, 2005 | News

If the authorities cannot ensure the security of the trial of Saddam Hussein and the long-term safety of judges, lawyers, victims, witnesses and families, they’ll have to re-think and make changes to how and where the Iraqi High Criminal Court operates.

“Already two defence lawyers are dead, one has fled, scores of witnesses appear to be too frightened to give evidence and eight people have been reportedly arrested for planning to kill an investigative judge”, said Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General of the ICJ. These serious developments further reduce the credibility of the trial. They make it increasingly difficult for the Court to deliver a calm, fair and just trial.

“A fair and just trial is not possible without a reasonably safe and secure environment. The latest incidents have illustrated that we are even further away from such basic conditions than we were before”, said Nicholas Howen.

“Security is not just about putting everyone into a rocket-proof courtroom for each hearing. It is about comprehensive and complex security measures before, during and long after such a trial. If such safety cannot be assured, all options must be looked at, including how and where the tribunal operates”, he warned.

In a fair and just trial witnesses must feel able to give full evidence without fearing for their lives, lawyers must be able to move freely to prepare their case, judges must not feel the intense pressure of escalating violence outside the courtroom. Providing proper security includes complex victim and witness protection measures – including resettling and changing the identity of some witnesses and families – not only at the time of the hearings, but even more crucially long after the conclusion of any trial.

Two defence lawyers, Sadoon al-Janabi and Adil Mohammed al-Zubeidi, were killed on 20 October and 8 November 2005 respectively. A third lawyer, Thamer Hamoud al-Khuzaie, injured in the fatal attack on Adil Mohammed al-Zubeidi, has fled abroad and is reportedly seeking asylum in Qatar. The ICJ calls for an independent and impartial investigation into both killings, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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