Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I happened to be halfway through a story in Harper's magazine about the Slobodan Milosevic trial when news broke that Saddam Hussein had been captured. Milosevic's trial at The Hague started in February and is expected to last for a couple of more years. His is one of about 100 cases before the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Terrory of the Former Yugoslavia. Altogether, the cases are expected to keep the Tribunal busy until 2012.

Thoughts from the author, Guy Lesser, about bringing Saddam before a similar tribunal: "The several years of both direct and indirect preparation involved in, for example, marshaling adequate admissible evidence and finding witnesses is but one issue. Others include whose notion of a 'fair' trial will prevail, and whether the trial is to deal with almost twenty-five years of International Humanitarian Law and human-rights abuses or ought to be a brief proceeding limited in its scope. If the latter, victims' families are certain to raise passionate objections. A trial of broad scope, on the other hand, would undoubtedly drag on for several years. And it is quite easy to imagine that much would be made of active U.S. support of Hussein's regime during the conflict with Iran, that the 'legality' of the United States invasion would be vigorously contested by the defendant(s), and that every effort possible would be made to play to the region's anti-American audience, portraying Hussein as both a martyr struggling to defend Islam from the West and something of a pawn, turned upon and betrayed by his former ally, the United States. Doubtless, too, some attempt would be made not only to portray the current Bush agenda for the Middle East in a sinister light but also to implicate the United States during the period prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, perhaps even in the role of an accomplice that supplied and trained Hussein's armed forces while turning a blind eye to IHL crimes they were fully aware of and might have done something to prevent."

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