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Holding Hussein accountable for all his crimes

6 September 2005

I've written about this before, but given that Saddam's trial seems to be approaching I'll reemphasize some things. The October 19th trial will focus exclusively on Saddam's participation in the massacre of Shi'a villagers in al-Dujail in which hundreds were executed in repudiation of an assasination attempt on Hussein.

If found guilty, the Iraqi government has indicated that Saddam could be executed without facing any further charges. This would mean that Saddam's involvement in atrocities committed against Kurds, in Halabja, and Iranians, during the 1980-88 war, would go unaccounted for. While Saddam's campaign against Kurds has always been on the list of prelminary charges the Prosecutor is responsible for investigating, crimes against Iranians has never been seriously considered by the Iraqi Tribunal and has prompted Iranian officials to prepare their own charges. I'm unsure what standing Iran would have to file a complaint with the Court. However, its worth noting that the the Statute for the Special Tribunal allows the Court jurisdiction over "crimes committed in connection with Iraq’s wars against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

In my opinion, convicting Saddam solely for crimes committed in al-Dujail would be a huge mistake. Post-conflict tribunals are not prosecutory systems intended solely to convict and punish particular perpetrators. They are created to instill confidence back into social institutions, including political and judicial structures. Moreover, a hallmark of transitional justice is its ability to attain reconciliation in past atrocities. In part this demands that the offenders face up to all their crimes, and not that which is sufficient to convict them. Victims and bystanders of Saddam's regime will feel cheated and disillusioned by the government and the Special is their own victimization isn't accounted for in trials against Saddam. As a result the Court would effectively fail in creating the type of confidence in judicial institutions needed for post-conflict resolution.

Cross posted on Iranian Truth

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