NEW YORK, 21 November 2006 — Human Rights Watch said yesterday that Saddam Hussein’s trial in Iraq for crimes against humanity was fundamentally flawed and called for his death sentence and conviction to be overturned.
“The trial...was marred by so many procedural and substantive flaws that the verdict is unsound,” the rights watchdog said in a statement released with its 97-page report on the trial.
“The proceedings in the Dujail trial were fundamentally unfair,” said Nehal Bhuta, who wrote the report.
“The tribunal squandered an important opportunity to deliver credible justice to the people of Iraq. And its imposition of the death penalty after an unfair trial is indefensible,” he added.
The report is based on 10 months of observation and dozens of interviews with judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers.
It says the court that tried Saddam and seven co-defendants “was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court.”
“Unless the Iraqi government allows experienced international judges and lawyers to participate directly, it’s unlikely the court can fairly conduct other trials,” the report said.
Saddam was sentenced to death by hanging earlier this month after a trial lasting more than a year for his role in ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite civilians, mostly boys and men, from the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt in 1982.
Two other defendants were also sentenced to death in the trial, and four were sentenced to prison terms of from 15 years to life.
While the verdict and sentences are under appeal, the former Iraqi president, who was forced from power by the US-led invasion in March 2003, is meanwhile being tried on separate charges for genocide.