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Saddam Dujail trial ‘fundamentally unfair’: HRW
Saddam Dujail trial ‘fundamentally unfair’: HRW

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein's trial for crimes against humanity committed in Dujail was "fundamentally unfair" and the guilty verdict lacks legitimacy due to procedural and substantive flaws, according to a report [text; press release] released by advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Monday. Nehal Bhuta, the report's author, said that the Iraqi High Tribunal "squandered an important opportunity to deliver credible justice" and called the court's decision to impose the death penalty in light of the trial's procedural shortcomings "indefensible." Based on 10 months of court observation and interviews with judges and lawyers, the report concludes that:

  • Hussein and his co-defendants were not given adequate notice of charges against them, or enough time to prepare a defense;
  • prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory statements, and failed to disclose witness statements and other evidence in advance of trial;
  • chain of custody issues were dismissed without argument;
  • 29 witness statements were read into the court record, denying Hussein his right to confront his accusers;
  • judges failed to explain their reasoning on key issues in writing;
  • Hussein's defense counsel acted inappropriately and failed to adequately represent Hussein;
  • the turnover of judges hurt the trial, and that the presiding judge exhibited unseemly bias in favor of the prosecution;
  • and that substantively, the judges should have required "linkage evidence" from political, historical, or military experts to demonstrate how much knowledge Hussein should have had of the acts he was blamed for.

Hussein's defense lawyers welcomed the report [AFP report] Monday, saying that HRW's findings "bolster" the defense team's arguments that the trial was "unfair and illegal."

Last week, defense lawyers accused Iraqi officials of interfering with the appeals process [JURIST report] of the Dujail verdict, where Hussein and two co-defendants received the death penalty [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in Dujail. Hussein was charged [JURIST report] with killing, torturing and illegally detaining Dujail residents, including the execution of 148 Shiites [JURIST report], after an unsuccessful attempt on his life there in 1982.

Hussein is also currently on trial on genocide charges [JURIST news archive] for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds in the "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] in the late 1980s. That trial was adjourned [JURIST report] last week until mid-December. The Washington Post has more.