» Friday, July 2, 2004


Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Ann Clwyd’s view that it would have been better to try Saddam Hussein at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister was satisfied with the current arrangements. Saddam was being tried in Iraq by the Iraqi people. Put to her that the judicial process would have more legitimacy if the judge in Iraq had not been handpicked by the US, the PMS repeated that we were happy with the arrangements as they stood.

Asked if Downing Street was concerned that the Independent had revealed the identity of the judge who was trying Saddam, the PMS said that it wasn’t for her to comment but for others to ask the Independent why they alone had chosen to ignore requests made to the media yesterday not to publish the name of the judge. Security was obviously of grave concern in Iraq today and the fear of reprisals was real.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. There are very obvious reasons why alleged victims of crime are not allowed to sit in judgement over those accused of committing the crime(s). So why is Saddam being tried by Iraqis for crimes allegedly committed against Iraqis? Milosovic is not being tried by the Serbs. If Saddam is an international criminal then surely he should be tried in the international court. I could think of three reasons why not.

    1) This could be a propaganda exercise aimed at the Iraqi people showing the new Iraqi regime punishing the ‘evil dictator’ – while this may be true it has a high probability of backfiring. Whether people supported or hated Saddam, he is still a symbol of Iraqi self-sovereignty and nationalism. The trial will no doubt be seen by some as another example foreign powers (through a puppet regime) attacking Iraq and undermining self-rule rather than reinforcing it.

    2) It is much easier to predict the verdict if you pick the judges – undoubtedly the difference between the Iraqi court and the international one is that the US hand-picked the judges in Iraq. We do not know if any underhand deals were struck or even needed to be struck but I think it is clear that the US will get the verdict it wants.

    3) The Iraqi court could pronounce a death sentence; the international court would not – this is not a question of whether you support the death sentence or not but whether it would be in the US interests. Saddam, no doubt, has lots of things to say that would embarrass the US. They may be true or may not but either way some people would choose to believe them and they would definitely undermine any moral high ground that the US tried to claim. I believe that there a lot of powerful people, in politics and business, who would sleep a lot easier if they knew that Saddam wasn’t going to tell any tales.

    This final point may also be why no other country is demanding Saddam’s trial take place in the international court. It is not just the US and UK who may wish to have some things buried as deep and as soon as possible.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 2 Jul 2004 on 2:33 pm | Link
  2. I tend to look at it differently. It’s very unlikely that Saddam would be found innocent in any court of law; we can question whether or not there’s enough evidence to nail him on everything, but it’s likely the man will never leave prison, regardless of who tries him on the crimes.

    Ignore the amount of time the trial takes; that’s a red herring.

    What the trial represents is an opportunity for ordinary Iraqis to face the man who was once their leader and tell their story; if done properly, this could be one of the things that begins the first steps of healing some of the damage done in the past to these people he’s basically kept in thrall.

    Given that the man doesn’t have any value in society other than a tool to be used to heal the damage he’s done, I’d rather see him tried in a place that might be able to take advantage of that one last useful purpose he might have to the people he was once responsible for killing, torturing, and maiming.

    As to whether or not embarrassing facts will come out – I have no doubt they will, regardless of whether or not Saddam has an opportunity to say them out loud in court. Our own media has done a pretty good job of educating us as to just how stupid our governments have been to back him in the first place, and how our own hands are left bloodied by proxy of western support for the regime during some of the worst of the crimes.

    But given this will all come out in the wash no matter what happens, Saddam’s existence can only serve one remaining good purpose, and that’s to start correcting the damage. And for that, I’m happy for the trials to be right where they are, in the hands of those who most need it.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 3 Jul 2004 on 5:11 pm | Link

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