Iraqi tribunal could violate international standards, rights group warns

[JURIST] The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (formerly known as the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website]), the court established to try Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and other former Iraqi officials, could violate international standards for fair trials, according to a briefing paper, The Former Iraqi Government on Trial [text], released Sunday by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. HRW warns that the court could violate international standards [HRW press release] because it does not require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and lacks adequate protections for the accused. Disputes among Iraqi political factions over control of the court and requirements that prohibit reducing a death sentence for any Iraqi official and compel execution within 30 days of a final judgment may also violate international standards for fair trials. A senior UN judge has also echoed concerns [DPA report] that Hussein's trial will not meet fairness standards. Wolfgang Schomburg, who has served on UN war crimes tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said that the IST has features of "victors' justice" and called for the creation of an international court. Last week, a UN human rights expert released a report [text] on the independence of judges and lawyers; the report expressed alarm [JURIST report] at IST procedures that contravene international human rights standards, including the tribunal's power to impose the death penalty. The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven other former Iraqi officials is scheduled to begin Wednesday for the alleged 1982 massacre of more than 140 people from Dujail. Hussein is expected to face multiple charges [JURIST report], including premeditated murder, torture and forced expulsion. AFP has more.

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