Was Justice Done in the Trial of Saddam Hussein?

Author:Quigley, John
Position:Thinking Politically - The Trial of Saddam Hussein - Book review

The Trial of Saddam Hussein, by Abdul-Haq Al-Ani. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2008, 421 pp. $21.95 ISBN 978-0932863-58-4 (paper)

The Trial of Saddam Hussein is an account by an Iraqi lawyer who was in some measure an insider in the judicial proceedings that led to the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Although an opponent of Saddam Hussein while the latter was in power, Abdul-Haq Al-Ani, living abroad in the United Kingdom, participated, at the request of Saddam Hussein's daughter, in the early stages of the proceedings. He decided, as did some other lawyers who were involved at that stage, not to participate in defending Saddam Hussein before the Iraqi special tribunal, to demonstrate, as he says, "non-recognition" of the tribunal. "The Tribunal," he writes, "was destined from its inception to convict Saddam Hussein, which made it a political rather than a judicial trial."

Al-Ani sees the trial as having served a number of purposes. He says that Saddam Hussein had to be killed because "he alone had all the secrets." Another purpose was to serve as a "reminder to all Arab and Third World leaders that a similar fate awaits each and every one of them who dares to defy imperialist designs for the Arab and developing world." A third was "to vindicate an aggression which all but erased Iraq as a political and social entity."

The third alleged purpose would indeed seem to have played a role. As Al-Ani writes, once the weapons of mass destruction rationale for the Iraqi invasion proved ephemeral, major stress was placed by the United States on how bad Saddam Hussein had been as a ruler. Trying him in a court of law would provide the proof.

Al-Ani thus views the trial as an effort to justify an invasion whose stated justification had proved empty. If there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then removing an evil dictator was the fallback justification. Demonstrating the evils of the prior regime would make de-Baathification and reorientation of the Iraq economy seem more acceptable.

Trials of overthrown government leaders are rarely a model of legal propriety. Inevitably, those who assume power seek to demonstrate the evil of the overthrown leader in order to justify their own accession to power. It is difficult to try a person about whom nearly everyone in the country has strong opinions, either for or against. Particularly when there is a widespread negative opinion, as was true in Iraq for Saddam Hussein, it is difficult to maintain...

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