Saddam Hussein's Trial Begins in Baghdad
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2005 Saddam Hussein is getting something he didn't give his victims - a fair trial.
Saddam's trial, which began in Baghdad today, is being held under the rule of law and is in accordance with international norms, U.S. State Department and National Security Council officials said on background here today.
The Iraqi courts are handling the prosecution, Iraqi investigative judges are handling the evidence, and Saddam is being charged under laws passed by the Transitional National Assembly. Iraqi laws will be followed, officials said. However, both the prosecutors and defense lawyers are receiving outside help, as the nuances of international law are complex, the officials said.
The Iraqis have taken crimes generally charged under international law - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - and merged them in to the domestic criminal code, the State Department official said. "They are still operating under an Iraqi procedural system," he said.
Saddam entered not guilty pleas to charges of crimes against humanity and murder in the deaths of more than 140 Iraqis in the town of Dujail in 1982. The former dictator is charged with ordering torture and the murders following an assassination attempt. "Crimes against humanity are crimes committed in either wartime or peacetime against civilians," the State Department official said. "This has to be systematic and widespread activity. This charge is most appropriate in this case."
Saddam is charged along with seven co-defendants in the Dujail case. He also is awaiting charges on far larger cases of genocide and war crimes. The former Iraqi president allegedly used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Halabja and ordered wholesale massacres of Shiia Arabs following the first Gulf War.
Iraqi officials said Saddam also could be charged with waging war on neighboring states - Kuwait and Iran - as well as a host of lesser charges.
During the hearing today, the judge explained the rights of the accused and entertained motions. The prosecutor explained in great detail what each of the defendant's is being charged with.
The judge granted a defense motion for more time to prepare for trial. The proceedings will reconvene Nov. 28.
Officials said the trial could last for several months.