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Iraq: RFI Interviews Presiding Judge In Hussein Trial

Presiding Judge Rizgar Muhammad Amin at the opening of the Saddam Hussein trial on 19 October 2005 (epa) RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Iraqi Special Tribunal presiding Judge Rizgar Muhammad Amin in Al-Sulaymaniyah about the trial of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven of his associates. The charges in the trial, which was launched on 19 October before being adjourned until late November, include crimes against humanity in connection with the 1982 massacre in the Shi'ite village of Al-Dujayl (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 October 2005). The interview was broadcast on 11 November.

RFI: Are you satisfied with your performance in the first hearing of the Saddam Hussein trial?

Rizgar Muhammad Amin: Yes, I am satisfied with the performance of the tribunal. It has been described as really very good by other people [than me] who are specialists from among distinguished judges, law professors, and law institutes such as the prestigious CEELI [Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative of the American Bar Association]. Therefore, I can say that I, as a judge, have fulfilled my duty, as I should.

RFI: Some media reports have suggested that you were too gentle toward Saddam Hussein, thus offering him an opportunity to attack the legitimacy of the tribunal. What is your comment?

Amin: It is one of the tasks of a judge to preserve patience and good manners. Rudeness is forbidden for a lawyer in the genuine juridical tradition, and [using] it would be incompatible with the esteem and the neutrality of the tribunal.

As my revered teacher, Court of Cassation former presiding Judge Diya' al-Shaykh Khattab, says in his book "The Art of Justice," a good judge is someone who has silenced his humane side because he holds the scales between two litigants and must pass a fair judgment on them, abstaining from any shadow of sympathy or bias. Therefore he must be neither harsh nor temperate but always gentle. He must respect every person, whatever his or her position. He must not make any distinction between someone strong and weak. Everyone is equal before the law. This is the task of judge according to the constitution, domestic law, and the international criteria for a fair trial. The defendant has the right to defend himself within the limits of law, and the court is obliged to hear him out. But going beyond or outside the subject of the indictment is unacceptable, whether it happens from the side of [the participants] or from the court itself.

Security Concerns

RFI: Some of the defense lawyers have demanded security protection after some of their colleagues were murdered. Will the Iraqi Special Tribunal provide the defense lawyers with security protection, or is that within the competences of the Interior Ministry?

Amin: The protection of all citizens including attorneys is a duty of the government. The tribunal has urgently appealed [to the government] and hopes the [government] will provide sufficient protection to the [lawyers] and to everybody.

RFI: Some of Saddam Hussein's lawyers have announced that they will boycott the next hearing [scheduled for 28 November]. What measures will you take if this happens?

Amin: The tribunal will take an appropriate decision at the relevant time. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

RFI: Circles close to the defense lawyers have demanded that the trial be transferred abroad. What do you think as the presiding judge in the trial?

Amin: Transferring the trial abroad would fall within the issues of [Iraqi state] sovereignty, on the one hand, and the competences of the UN Security Council, on the other hand. It is outside the competences of the [Iraqi Special] Tribunal, and [therefore] I would not say any more on this subject.

Questions Of Interference

RFI: Another important issue is the indication in some media reports that there has been U.S. interference in the trial. What is your reaction?

Amin: Our tribunal is independent according to law, and no one can interfere in its affairs. I have not noticed any [outside] interference in its work; there has not been any [interference], whether from inside the country or from abroad.

RFI: What about allegations of politicization or prejudice of the tribunal?

Amin: I am a judge acting upon law; I am not a politician. Consequently, we do not accept any political interference or any politicization of the tribunal.

RFI: The quality of the [audio and video] transmission of the first hearing of the trial has been criticized. How will this be resolved in the upcoming hearing, bearing in mind that people are eager to follow the trial?

Amin: I have been informed that the situation has been resolved for the next hearing. I have not actually seen the transmission of the proceedings, but I have heard that the transmission was technically poor.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek.)

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