Saddam Denied Basic Right to Fair Trial
20 Lawyers Can’t Get Former Iraqi President An Honest Day in Court
By Greg Szymanski
There is an old saying in the legal profession that everybody deserves a fair trial. But that is easier said than done when it comes to the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. After being captured over a year ago by American forces, Saddam has been held in a military detention center without charges being filed and without access to legal counsel even though his family has hired over 20 lawyers, including several Americans.
But what good are lawyers if you’re not allowed to talk with them? What good is a defense team if the prosecution never presents its case?
In fact, Saddam has never been afforded any of the rights normally mandated by the Geneva Conventions, these technicalities being ignored by
the U.S. government since he has never been officially categorized as a prisoner of war.
The American government claims Saddam is nothing but a terrorist and can rot in jail until hell freezes over. Some more objective observers, however, contend he either should be given prisoner of war status or immediately released since the invasion of Iraq was a violation of U.S. law.
But if you think the American government is going to let something so insignificant as U.S. laws stand in the way of Saddam’s eventual execution, think again. Most people believe there is no doubt that Saddam will eventually be killed or will rot in jail and that everything in between is merely legal gamesmanship, a plan set up by the Bush administration to make it appear that Saddam is receiving at least a semblance of justice.
There are many reasons why the American government wants Saddam out of the picture quickly, one being a long and drawn out defense might expose the sordid details of how America actually backed Saddam in the war against Iran and the other atrocities committed against his own people.
In other words, when it served American interests, Saddam was allowed to play dirty. But when U.S. interests were no longer served, he needed to be removed.
So now he sits in jail, the only question being how can he be removed without too much ill will being spread across the world.
It would be an international nightmare to just shoot him in front of a firing squad. And it would be too cumbersome to give him prisoner of war status since that would bring up complicated issues of whether the United States actually violated the law by attacking Iraq.
So the Bush administration decides to skirt laws and international conventions and to violate humanitarian principles of law by creating a bogus Iraqi tribunal to hear Saddam’s case, while at the same time giving him no ability to defend himself.
And if it wasn’t for international human rights lawyer Curtis Doebbler, perhaps no one would ever be able to make any sense about what is going on with Saddam and the “kangaroo court” gathered in Baghdad.
Doebbler, an American citizen and respected human rights attorney, has been hired by Saddam’s family to represent the former dictator. He is one of the lead attorneys in an international group numbering more than 20, who are trying to piece together a defense even though the prosecution has never officially presented charges.
Doebbler has acted all over the world as an expert consultant and teacher/trainer in the field of internal human rights law. His clients have included an estimated two million internally displaced persons in the Khartoum State, approximately 3,500 Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan, dozens of political activists in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Afghanistan as well as hundreds of other clients from numerous countries .
From his headquarters in Jordan, Doebbler answered questions from American Free Press to update the latest aspects of Saddam’s case:
“As this case arose in the aftermath of one of the most serious violations of human rights to take place in recent times, the violation of the right to life of 26 million Iraqis by the act of aggression carried out against them by the United States, a country whose nationality I hold, there is a special responsibility to act,” said Doebbler.
“Many of my colleagues around the world as well as in the United States respect the fact that every individual has the right to legal representation and the right to a fair trial,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have received both explicit and implicit threats from members of the U.S. military and some other individuals who do not understand this. I have also been several times harassed by the Israeli immigration and IDF authorities who do not like my work either as the representative of Mr. Saddam Hussein or as a professor of law at An-Najah National University in Palestine.
“If human rights are to become a reality and if we are to defend the rule of law from the violent and in recent times unprecedented attack that that has been launched against human rights by the Bush administration and its allies,
individuals must have the courage to stand up against injustice,” he said.
AFP asked Doebbler when the last time he visited Saddam and if he could relate what kind of mental and physical condition he was in.
“We have not been allowed to visit him in an appropriate manner that allows the facilitation of his defense,” he said. “The single visit of one of the lawyers took place on Dec. 16, 2004. This visit, however, was conducted with guards present and it was impossible to discuss the details of the case with our client.”
Asked when formal court proceedings would begin, Doebbler responded:
“The lawyers have been provided neither the charges nor the evidence nor access to their client. For more than one year Mr. Saddam Hussein continues to be denied access to lawyers of his choosing with the view to facilitating his defense and several other due process rights that international
humanitarian and human rights law require be respected. Furthermore, he is threatened with trial before an incompetent court that is neither independent nor impartial. These violations constitute irreparable violations of his right to fair trial.”
Doebbler told AFP that former Attorney General Ramsey Clarke is supporting the efforts of the legal team, but he also has not been able to have contact with Saddam in order to mount a proper defense.
“At the moment, we are simply instructed by the family,” said Doebbler. “However, Mr. Clark is in contact with the lawyers working on this case, including myself.”