Saddam’s trial

The coming months should witness a row over the trial of Saddam Hussein, as different groups seek revenge against the deposed Iraqi leader. The only judicial precedent that Washington has is that of the Nuremberg trial – a tribunal made up of the victors of the Second World War. The case of Iraq, however, does not fit this pattern. The Nazis committed their horrible crimes against peoples that were under German occupation. In the case of Saddam, the crimes were committed against the Iraqi people – a fact that deprives American or British judges of any jurisdiction. In theory, the newly established international criminal court would be most suitable to hold the trial, as Saddam’s crimes were committed against humanity. But that tribunal has no authority over events that took place before July 1, 2002, the day it came into being. What is more, the court is not recognized by Washington. Establishing an ad hoc tribunal would require a resolution by the UN Security Council and, again, it is doubtful whether the US would give the green light to such a decision. In effect, the Iraqis must take the case into their own hands. They are the only legitimate judges. Furthermore, a tribunal made up of respectable Iraqi judges would help convince the Muslim world that Saddam was neither a myth nor the expression of some pan-Arab nationalism. He was a cruel tyrant and, what is more, he was allowed to become one, tolerated by those who now mistreat him in prison.