Hailing the capture of Saddam Hussein as a "positive development," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for international norms of justice to prevail in trials against Iraqi criminals.
“Saddam Hussein has cast a rather long shadow over developments and over the transition process,” Mr. Annan noted in comments to the press just prior to his meeting with Jeremy Greenstock, the United Kingdom’s senior envoy for Iraq, at UN Headquarters in New York. “With his capture, that shadow has been removed, and I hope this will help us move ahead with the transition period and also accelerate the process of reconciliation and attempts to establish a provisional Iraqi government that is inclusive and transparent.”
Noting that the former Iraqi leader has been accused of "heinous crimes including gross and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," Mr. Annan emphasized that "all those responsible for these crimes should be brought to account."
"I believe this should be done through open trials in properly established courts of law which will respect basic international norms and standards, including respect for international humanitarian law," he said.
Responding to press questions, he repeated that whatever court is set up must meet basic international standards. "If in doing that one needs to get help from our side I think we should be considered," he said, adding, "I've been encouraged by assurance given by the [United States] President and other senior members of the Administration that Saddam Hussein would be treated humanely, even though this is the treatment he in the past did not accord those who fell into his hands."
To a question on whether the capture would bring the UN back to Iraq, the Secretary-General replied, "the only thing that will hasten the UN's return is the establishment of a secure environment, and if the capture of Saddam Hussein leads to that development it will be helpful."
Once the occupation has ended, Mr. Annan noted, violence and resistance activities should decrease. “Most people realize that Saddam was out of the game, that he wasn’t going to come back.”
During his meeting with Mr. Greenstock, the two discussed the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq, which will be presented to the Security Council tomorrow, according to a readout of the encounter. Mr. Annan was also updated on the progress on the political transition, and the two discussed options for both short- and long-term UN engagement in the country.
Meanwhile, members of the Security Council today welcomed the capture of Saddam Hussein and supported a statement issued by Mr. Annan's spokesman on Sunday calling the event "an important development."
"Council members look forward to the presentation tomorrow of the Secretary-General's report by the Secretary-General and the statement of Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari, who will also join the session," the President of the 15-member body, Ambassador Stefan Tafrov of Bulgaria, told reporters.
Video of Annan's remarks to the press