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HRW urges Iraq tribunal to 'improve practices' for fair Saddam genocide trial

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] on Friday said that "the Iraqi High Tribunal is presently incapable of fairly and effectively trying a genocide case in accordance with international standards and current international criminal law" and called on the tribunal to "improve its practices" [statement] during Saddam Hussein's second trial, scheduled to begin Monday [JURIST report]. HRW based its statement on observations from the first Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive], where Hussein and seven co-defendants faced crimes against humanity charges [JURIST report] for allegedly killing, torturing and illegally detaining Dujail residents and for committing other inhumane acts after an alleged 1982 assassination attempt on Hussein's life. According to the statement:

Human Rights Watch's observation of the Dujail trial, in which the defendants are accused of ordering the murder of villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on Hussein, indicated a number of serious shortcomings in the institutional functioning of the court. None of the Iraqi judges and lawyers has shown an understanding of international criminal law. The court's administration has been chaotic and inadequate, making it unable to conduct a trial of this magnitude fairly. And the court has relied so heavily on anonymous witnesses that it has undercut the defendants' right to confront witnesses against them and effectively test their evidence.

These shortcomings have been compounded by the sharp deterioration of the security environment in Iraq, including the tribunal's failure to protect defense counsel targeted for assassination.
The Dujail trial has been adjourned until October 16 [JURIST report], when a verdict is expected.

In the second trial to begin Monday, Hussein and six co-defendants are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity [JURIST report] in connection to the so-called "Anfal" operation [HRW backgrounder] that led to the killings of as many as 100,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s. The court named Judge Abdullah al-Amiri as the presiding judge [JURIST report] and Munqith Takleef al-Firuan as the chief prosecutor in the Anfal trial [HRW Q/A]. Reuters has more.

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