Saddam trial judges disagree over choice of new chief judge

[JURIST] Judges on the Iraqi High Criminal Court (formerly, the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website]), the court trying Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], are in disagreement over how to choose a new chief judge to replace Rizgar Amin [Wikipedia profile]. Amin resigned last week [JURIST report] in protest of criticism surrounding his handling of the trial, and was replaced temporarily [JURIST report] by colleague Sayeed al-Hamashi. The court administration wants to appoint al-Hamashi as permanent chief judge, but some of the 14 judges on the 15-judge panel feel that the administration does not have the right to appoint a new chief judge, saying that court's governing statute [PDF text] clearly states that the new chief judge should be elected by the other judges in the tribunal. The disagreement further fuels doubts of some human rights groups as to whether Iraq is capable of hosting a fair trial for Hussein and his seven co-defendants, charged [JURIST report] in connection with the 1982 massacre of 143 Shiites in Dujail. Meanwhile Tuesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] suggested that security concerns surrounding the proceedings would be alleviated if the trial were moved from Baghdad to Kurdistan [Reuters report]. Talabani, who is from the Kurdish region, told reporters Tuesday that judges would be safe there and "guarded very well." Two defense lawyers have been killed and there has been an assassination attempt [JURIST report] on an investigative judge since the trial began last year. Reuters has more.

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