Monday, June 19, 2006

Saddam's trial -- Prosecutor's Closing Argument

Michael Scharf sums up the Prosecution's argument in a tight little knot. Very impressive.

There were three noteworthy aspects of the Prosecutor's closing argument in the Saddam Trial:

First, it was very significant that the Prosecutor asked the Tribunal to drop charges against one of the lesser-known co-defendants and to be lenient on the other three lesser-known co-defendants. The Prosecutor is obviously hoping that this move will show that the proceedings are fair. Experts who have been following the trial had opined that there was very little evidence against these four and wondered if it was a mistake to include them in the case. I think there is a parallel here to the Nuremberg trial, in which three of the defendants were
acquitted. Supporters of the Nuremberg Tribunal said that proved the Tribunal was fair, while critics asserted that it was a travesty of justice that the three were ever made to stand trial in the first place.

Second, compared to other recent war crimes trials, this was a remarkably short Closing Argument. Closing Arguments at The Hague, Arusha and Freetown have been known to go on for days, not hours. The brevity here reflected the strength of the Prosecutor’s case. Like Nuremberg, the Dujail trial turned out to be based mostly on documents, whose authenticity was confirmed, rather than the testimony of witnesses, whose credibility could be called into question. ... In light of the strength of the documentary evidence, all the Prosecutor really had to do in his Closing Argument was argue "res ipsa loquitur," Latin for "the thing speaks for itself."

Third, the Prosecution asked for the death penalty for Saddam Hussein and his half brother, the Security Chief, Barzan Tikriti. If the judges find that the two defendants are responsible for the detention, torture, and mass murder
of 148 innocent civilians as retribution for a failed assassination attempt, the death penalty may well be warranted, even if it means that Saddam will not be around to stand trial for the more serious offenses, such as the killing of 200,000 Kurds in the Anfal campaign in 1988 or the killing of 500,000 Southern Marsh Arabs in 1991.

Lots more at the link, but those are the highlights. No one seems to be paying a lot of attention to this trial, but it is one of the most important components of whatever passes for a resolution of conflict as the dust settles on this terrible mess.

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