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Shortly after the invasion of Iraq the hunt for the Ba’athist regimes war criminals began with a pack of playing cards, more than fifty wanted men were each represented by a card and each card carried a bounty. The parallels between the device adopted to account for each war criminal owed more to the native Texan history of George Bush than it did to due process and law enforcement but in the final analysis “It got the job done”. The “Prize” most sought was the card that bore the name of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but with the agents of the most powerful nations on earth looking for him he managed to elude capture for 258 days. When he was found his demeanour was not as expected, he was dishevelled, disorientated, unkempt and not the Dictatorial figure that the invading forces had claimed was the “Devil incarnate responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people”. At the time it was difficult to associate the Dictator of Iraq with the pathetic fugitive that emerged from a hole in the ground within sight of one of his own once sumptuous palaces. For a while even his captors doubted that he was the man they sought and until his identity had been verified by a DNA screening they were cautious, as there were many stories of Saddam Hussain look a like’s, impostors and impersonators. The capture was finally confirmed by Donald Rumsfedlt at a White House press briefing when he delivered the famous one liner “We got him”. The “House of cards” that was once the ruling administration of Iraq was imploding and leaving a political vacuum in the aftermath of the invasion that was becoming more difficult to control with each new day that passed.

If the country was to recover it needed a political structure, a government, an infrastructure and self-determination all of which was clouded by the survival of Saddam Hussein past the point of invasion.

An election was held in Iraq to restore power to the Iraqi people but it was to elect a “Transitional” government that could formulate a constitution to be put before the people for their approval. More than one hundred political parties sought election to this government but the one section of the Iraqi population that went largely unrepresented in the transitional government that was elected in February 2005 was the Sunni Muslim minority. The Mullahs had instructed the Sunni minority to boycott the elections and put forward the premise that any government would be a “Puppet of the United States”. They also “Hedged their bets “ by saying that there could be no Iraqi government without the Sunni minority. The Sunni minority were the power base of Saddam Hussein, many of the powerful government posts before the invasion were held by Sunni’s.

The constitution was formulated and became a reality but it was largely put together by the Shia Muslim majority and the Kurds who made up more than 70% of the Iraqi people, though insurrection by Sunni insurgents was at pains to strangle the constitution before it could be accepted. Sunni insurgents now frequently attack the alliance forces and the native Iraqi police and seem to have little regard for the safety of the Iraqi people. An added dimension is “The Al-Queida” factor” though they are an import that Iraqi could well do without if they are to recover.

Iraqi finally got the government it was promised in early 2006, the problems it faces are myriad compared with western administrations but during the days of the “Transitional government” the trials of Iraq’s previous leaders began amid a controversy of jurisdiction, The International Court of Justice insisted that the removed Iraqi leadership should face trial in the Hague under international law as two of the charges the accused were to face were “Crimes against humanity” and “Genocide” but the Iraqi government wanted them to be tried under Iraqi law which draws its authority from the Qur’an and still maintains the ultimate sanction of the death penalty where the ICC could only give a life imprisonment sentence. The power and the influence of the United States prevailed and reluctantly the UN permitted Iraq to try Saddam Hussein for “Crimes against humanity”. The charge arose from an incident following a failed attempt to “Assassinate” the President whilst he was on a visit to an area populated mainly by Shia Muslims. The aftermath involved the beating, torture and eventual death of 148 Shia Muslims at the hands of the Sunni Militia who were believed to be under the orders of Saddam Hussein. The failed assassination attempt was said to have been orchestrated by agents of the United States of America.

The “Trial” began in October 2005 and to say the very least it has been theatrical, naturally the defendant did not recognise the court nor it’s legal authority to try him. Three of his lawyers have been killed during the trial and at one point the judge agreed that Saddam was neither a terrorist, dictator or a bad man……..Of course the trial's sponsors could not agree so that judge was removed and another was appointed who was more able to achieve the desired result. The court had no shortage of “Legal expertise” in fact in the early days of the trial there were more US attorneys in the courtroom than Iraqi’s. The sponsors were in danger of prejudicing the “fairness” of Iraqi due process.

In November 2006 the judge handed down a death sentence on Saddam Hussein and his two co-accused amid continuous “Barracking and rhetoric” from the defendant but whilst he told the defendant that he would be hanged for his crimes he did not actual say that the court had found him guilty. In view of the severity of the sentence one might think it obvious that he was found guilty but under Iraqi law there is an automatic right of appeal, it would be no surprise if he claimed that he had not been found guilty yet had been sentenced to death. The appeals procedure is expected to take about two months after which under normal circumstances the sentence should be carried out but this is not a trial where normality applies.
There were two charges that were levelled against Saddam Hussein, crimes against humanity and genocide. The first charge of crimes against humanity was committed against the Shia Muslim population of Iraq and for that Saddam will hang make no mistake whatever happens with the appeal but there was a second charge, genocide.
The genocide was a crime against the Kurdish population of Iraq and they want him tried for his offence against them before he hangs for his crime against the Shia Muslims.
Politically the Kurdish claim on Saddam cannot be ignored, nor can the existing death sentence be carried out until the charge of genocide has been expunged.  The trial for his crimes against the Shia took one year, his crime against the Kurds was far worse by scale, degree and scope; it is unlikely that the genocide trial will take less than two years. The judiciary cannot be seen to favour the Shia dead over the Kurdish dead but in delaying the execution of sentence for the Shia atrocity they will be seen to be favouring the Kurdish dead. It is of paramount importance to the Kurds that Saddam is called to account for his chemical/biological attacks on the Kurdish civilian population but in order to stand trial Saddam Hussein will have to be allowed to cheat the stricture of the hang mans noose for possibly two more years.

The trial for his genocide against the Kurds began this week whilst his appeal against the death sentence for his crimes against the Shia has also started. It would come as no surprise to find that the protestations from the international community upon their abhorrence of the death sentence influenced the Iraqi judiciary to “Commute” the death sentence passed to imprisonment for life. Such a device would salvage some Shia honour and it would permit the genocide trial to take place and satisfy the Kurds. The question is, ”Will the Shia allow it?” If not then the situation in Iraq may well deteriorate further than ever into a bloody civil war with the Sunni minority caught between the power blocks of the Shia majority and the Northern Kurds.
The Kurds want the death of Saddam Hussein but for crimes against them. The Shia Muslims want his death for crimes against them. The irony will be that the only person safe in Iraq will be Saddam Hussein because he will be guarded by thousands of American/British soldiers until the day he is hung.

It can be no accident of timing that the judgement of the court was delivered on November 5th, just two days before the American mid-term elections. The Bush Administration has been criticised for its policy in Iraq and the news would come as some vindication of a policy that is becoming increasingly unpopular on The Hill.

If Saddam’s “wanted card” was not the Ace of Spades it should have been.


Posted: November 8, 2006 ,   Modified: November 9, 2006

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