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Iraq: Attorney Says Hussein Court's Legitimacy Not In Question

Hussein addressing the court on the first day of his trial, 19 October (AFP) The trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and seven deputies on charges of crimes against humanity was adjourned on 7 December until after Iraq's 15 December legislative elections. It will resume 21 December. The court this week heard riveting testimony from the first witnesses from the village of Al-Dujayl, who said they had been tortured in reprisal for an assassination attempt against Hussein there in 1982. Defense lawyers argued against the legitimacy of the court to hear the case. Meanwhile, a defiant Saddam lectured the court and even boycotted the week's final session. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq spoke about the course of the trial so far with Iraqi attorney and judge Zuhir Kadhim Aboud, who lives in Sweden.

RFE/RL: Is there any legal basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court?

Zuhir Kadhim Aboud: First, the legitimacy of the court is based on its composition of real lawyers and judges. It is not a fictitious court like those of Saddam's era. [Trial co-defendant] Awad al-Bandar was the chief justice [of Saddam's Revolutionary Court] during that time. He didn't know anything about justice. He had never been a judge before in his life, and there were no true judges in any of the special courts of the Saddam era. They were only wearing the robes of judges and issuing decisions to execute Iraqis. But this court [that is hearing evidence against Hussein] has been established legally according to proper judicial mechanisms.

RFE/RL: What will be the effect of the adjournment on the general course of the trial?

Aboud: It is only a [minor] impedance to the course of the trial. It is only a delay because they don't have any evidence for the defense. I think when the court begins hearing the core of the case, they won't have one bit of evidence to support the defendants. That is why they are returning to delaying tactics and asking for an adjournment. They are delaying the court in the hope that new political circumstances will arise or other circumstances that may mean the release the defendant. The defense is in bankruptcy. They are weak.

RFE/RL: What is your evaluation of the special Iraqi tribunal that is trying Saddam Hussein? Some have criticized the language and behavior of Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin for making the court look weak and ineffectual.

Aboud: It is not softness nor coldness from the judge's side. He is applying the law with fidelity, and he is famous for his efficiency, morality, and purity. It is true that he is not talking a lot, and this point could be abused. His allegiance is to justice, and he is neutral about the case in front of him. The defendant is considered not guilty until it is proven so. And that calm behavior and morality is what we are looking for in the new Iraq, which now has justice and a constitution.

RFE/RL: Have the defendants been given all their legal rights to defend themselves?

Aboud: The guarantees that guide the court are unique and even new for Iraqi law. The defendants are not guilty until it is proven so. We also see these guarantees include the right of the defendant to an open trial, to keep silent and not answer. If the defendant's lawyer withdraws, he has the right to have a lawyer appointed by the court. The defendant has the right not to be forced to confess, nor should his statement be interpreted as concluding his guilt or innocence. I think Saddam is enjoying guarantees in his trial that were not enjoyed during his own regime.

(translated by Sultan Sarwar)

The Presiding Judge

The Presiding Judge

On November 11, 2005, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Iraqi Special Tribunal presiding Judge Rizgar Muhammad Amin about the trial of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven of his associates... (more)