Saddam indicted; Iran demands war crimes charges

Saddam Hussein has finally been indicted by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, for a July 1982 massacre of some 150 Shi’ites at Dujail, a town north of Baghdad. But the ex-dictator’s lawyer Giovanni di Stefano is demanding that the trial be relocated from Baghdad to another country. “Baghdad couldn’t even prevent the recent kidnapping and killing of the Egyptian ambassador. There are also many Iraqis who want to see Saddam executed and many others who want to see him freed. That means the defense and prosecution would both be in danger there,” di Stefano said. He also said the fact that Saddam has been held in custody for 548 days without being formally charged is a violation of international law. “The whole point of the Iraq war was replace Saddam and everything he stood for. But there is a total disregard of the law there now,” he said. (UK Guardian, July 18)

Meanwhile, as Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari wrapped up a landmark visit to Tehran aimed at mending fences between the former foes, Iran’s government is demanding Saddam face war crimes charges over the 1980-88 war with Iran. Tehran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said his government is prepared to provide the Iraqi Special Tribunal with all the evidence necessary to prosecute him for his 1980 invasion of Iran. “With respect to the crimes committed by the leaders of the former Iraqi regime against the Iranian nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran expects Iraqi officials to seriously raise and follow up the case during Saddam Hussein’s trial,” he said. Iran would “provide all necessary evidence and documents to the special court for trial of Saddam.”

Kharazi said Iranian soldiers and civilians alike had been killed by Saddam’s battlefield use of chemical weapons and by missile strikes on Tehran and other cities during the protracted conflict in which some one million people were killed. Iraq first agreed that Saddam should be held to account for the war during a visit to Baghdad by Kharazi in May, which paved the way for Jaafari’s landmark trip. (Pakistan Daily Times, July 19)

The fact that the first indictment is for a massacre committed in 1982 could be an embarrassment for Washington, as it came at a time when the US was backing Saddam—and just months before then-presidential envoy Donald Rumsfeld’s December 1983 meeting with the dictator. The US also tilted to Saddam in his war with Iraq in the 1980s. (See WW4 REPORT #66)

See our last post on the Saddam case, and the Iraq quagmire.