UN rights group calls on Iraq, US to redress serious shortcomings in Saddam’s trial

UN rights group calls on Iraq, US to redress serious shortcomings in Saddam’s trial

A United Nations human rights group today called on the Iraqi and United States Governments to redress “serious procedural shortcomings” in the trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein and urged the Iraqis not to carry out the death sentence “imposed in a proceeding, which does not meet applicable basic standards of a fair trial.”

A United Nations human rights group today called on the Iraqi and United States Governments to redress “serious procedural shortcomings” in the trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein and urged the Iraqis not to carry out the death sentence “imposed in a proceeding, which does not meet applicable basic standards of a fair trial.”

In a statement issued in Geneva, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made clear it was not seeking Mr. Hussein’s release.

“What it recommends to the two Governments is that the serious procedural shortcomings are redressed and that the situation of Mr. Hussein be brought in conformity with the principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and with the provisions of the ICCPR,” it said, referring to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding treaty to which both Iraq and the US are parties.

Mr. Hussein was sentenced to be hanged earlier this month for the massacre of 148 people in a Shiite town near Baghdad in 1982, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has already called on the Iraqi authorities to observe a moratorium on executions, citing a credible appeals process as “an essential part of fair-trial guarantees.”

In its statement today the Working Group noted that it had already determined earlier this year that “the non-observance of the relevant international standards during Mr. Hussein’s trial was of such gravity as to confer Mr. Hussein’s deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character.”

Among a series of “grave procedural flaws,” it cited the lack of independence and impartiality of the tribunal which heard the case, lack of respect for Mr. Hussein’s right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence, and restrictions on his right of access to defence lawyers and on the possibility to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf.

Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, voiced “strong objections” over the conduct of the trial and concern about the consequences the judgment may have in Iraq and the wider region.

He voiced doubts about the tribunal’s legitimacy and credibility. “The tribunal has been established during an occupation considered by many as illegal, is composed of judges who have been selected during this occupation, including non Iraqi citizens, and has been mainly financed by the United States,” he said.