The Saddam Hussein show trial has been a farce from it’s inception.   Today, however, the ‘trial’ reached a new level of ridiculousness:

Chaos as Saddam trial chief judge replaced again: The trial of Saddam Hussein descended further into chaos as the chief judge in the case was replaced for the second time in a week. Just days after assurances by US and Iraqi officials that the case would proceed without further alterations, Sayeed al-Hamashi, the latest presiding judge who replaced Rizgar Amin, was forced to step down yesterday. The court trying the ousted Iraqi president has now appointed Raouf Abdel Rahman, a Kurd, to the post.

Here’s the kicker…

The new chief judge, Mr Rahman, is from Halabja, where 5,000 people died in a gas attack by Iraqi forces under Saddam in 1988. Tribunal officials said that, despite this, the judge would be “fair and impartial” in presiding over the trial.

Even if Mr. Rahman is the second coming of Solomon, there is no way that a judge from the very town where the massacre allegedly occurred can render impartial justice to the accused.  (On second thought, given his ethnicity, Solomon probably would not be a great choice either).

With a sectarian civil war percolating, Iraq is simply not in a position to conduct such an important human rights trial with any expectation of legitimacy.   For this type of situation, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was specifically created:

The International Criminal Court will complement national courts so that they retain jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

If a case is being considered by a country with jurisdiction over it, then the ICC cannot act unless the country is unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate or prosecute.

A country may be determined to be “unwilling” if it is clearly shielding someone from responsibility for ICC crimes. A country may be “unable” when its legal system has collapsed.

We’ve already had murdered defense counsel and a revolving door of magistrates. Meanwhile, everyone in the courtroom fears for his life daily.  Under these circumstances, the Iraqis are simply not capable of prosecuting Saddam with any semblance of conformity with basic legal concepts.

For the long term political stability of Iraq, it is imperative that Saddam get a fair trial. The proceedings must be orderly and any conviction untainted by bias or intimidation. Otherwise, Sunni insurgents will be handed a perpetual propaganda bonanza with which to stir up resentment and conflict.

Saddam belongs in the Hague.

(cross posted at Hoot at the Dark)

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