Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Cyber age: ND BATRA:

Saddam’s trial as public catharsis

From The Statesman

The trial of Saddam Hussein might turn out to be the trial of President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the court of global public opinion whether they were justified in invading Iraq in the absence of weapons of mass destruction.

It could be also the trial of American journalists who uncritically supported the White House war against Iraq; and UN’s oil-for-food traders, who illegally enriched themselves. Cynics might say: That is killing too many birds with one stone. So let the trial begin.

Nevertheless, the trial of Saddam Hussein provides the USA with a unique opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the people especially in the Arab and Muslim world, if conditions are created for him to defend himself in an open and fair trial held in Iraq by a panel of credible judges. Assassins must not rule the courthouse.

The world knows Saddam Hussein’s monstrous crimes, the torture chambers, the gassing of the Kurds, the disappearance and murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis buried in unmarked graves, and much worse, even the killing of his own two sons-in-law. But when television showed us in glaring light the haggard, bedraggled, haunted, pitiable face that twisted and turned on command for examination for lice and saliva, we wondered, “Was this the face that launched…?”

How did this man create the social apparatus, the machinery, and the network of collaborators that sustained his regime of fear that lasted so long? Saddam Hussein’s capture presents the Iraqi people a great opportunity to discover how organised violence by the Baathist Party under the dictates of one man subjugated their spirits. Hussein’s crimes against his people must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even though we have seen pictures of the mutilated bodies of children, men and women, young and old, lying helter-skelter after they were gassed to asphyxiation, Hussein must be given the right not to be a witness against himself as well as the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty. I am simply paraphrasing the rights of an accused in the USA enshrined and hallowed in the Bill of Rights, the greatest document ever written by the human mind, which is the ultimate source of American values, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and fair trial, all that is good about the USA, all that makes it a unique civilisation in the annals of mankind.

It is only by judging the worst amongst us in a fair and open trial – and in the global village Saddam Hussein is one of us– that we test our values, affirm our faith and renew ourselves as an open society.

A fair trial subject to international scrutiny conducted by Iraqis themselves, with the help of American and international jurists, if necessary, could be the beginning of a new era of transparency in Iraq based on the rule of law; and as a corollary, a great challenge to closed West Asian societies showing them how life could be better for them under a different system.

Sunshine is the greatest threat to rulers of the dark side. But how could Iraqis who have lived in mortal fear of this man for such a long time put aside their anger, hatred and overpowering desire for revenge to let a panel of judges conduct a fair trial? That is the challenge.

Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunals for Rawanda and the former Yugoslavia wrote sometime ago in Los Angeles Times that while Hussein’s trial gives the USA a chance to show that “the rule of law is stronger than the need for revenge,” it also presents a great challenge for conducting a fair trial because for decades Iraq had “no credible criminal justice system”; and the country has hardly any prosecutors trained to present a credible prosecution case. “There are,” Mr Goldstone wrote, “no credible Iraqi defence attorneys capable of providing Saddam the advice and support that he would need in defending himself. The independence of the judges would be highly questionable as well.”

Two defence attorneys have been killed. The people of Iraq, although a house divided against itself, Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and others, must be trusted and trained to handle a trial of this magnitude, a trial that would have a decisive influence on the future of their country and beyond. A broad-based all-inclusive and legitimate government in charge of the country is the first and foremost step in conducting a fair and open trial.

Let Hussein tell his side of the story in the best possible manner so that we understand how he built such a durable system of tyranny that lasted for more than three decades, and which might have continued but for the intervention of an outside power.

In the ultimate analysis, the purpose of Hussein’s open trial is social catharsis, purgation of hatred and desire for revenge by seeing the criminal punished; justice and may be compensation for the victims; and closure and national reconciliation.

The trial could be the beginning of a new society based upon the rule of law so that in future no one could abuse power without fear of punishment. And what is true of Iraq is also true of the USA.


  1. Saddam should be judged by Iraqi's own gov, not a puppet gov set up by US.

  2. Iraq war is a very good example showing how US media was censored , how US media cheat their readers and how Americans can be easily cheated.

    media freedom is a lie too in US.