Antiwar Europe Worries About Saddam Hussein Trial
For European online commentators who opposed the invasion of Iraq, the trial of Saddam Hussein is a welcome event, with worrisome undertones. Two concerns stand out: International legal norms may not be observed because of U.S. influence and the proceedings will intentionally avoid examining the U.S. alliance with Hussein in the 1980s.
Le Monde, the Paris daily that tenaciously defends multilateralism, has straightforward news coverage. The paper sent a reporter to Dujail, the scene of the first crime for which Hussein will be tried -- the massacre of 143 people after a failed assassination attempt in July 1982. The imam of a local mosque, a follower of anti-American radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, told the reporter that Sunnis from neighboring villages have mounted many attacks on the town since it was announced that Hussein would be charged for the Dujail incident. He said he wished the trial would be postponed. Another man said he wanted to remind the Sunni attackers that Hussein had once killed 50 Sunnis in a single day in the city of Samara.
Le Monde has a separate story on the concerns of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that the tribunal process will not be fair or meet international law standards.
(An explanation of the trial, the court's standards and the prosecution and defense cases can be found here.)
Liberation, a leftist daily in Paris, interviewed one of Hussein's former lawyers who said that Dujail was chosen for political reasons. "There is no risk that someone will mention the name of [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, for example," said Ziad al-Khassaouneh, a Jordanian lawyer who was on Hussein's defense team until last summer. Rumsfeld, as special envoy for then-President Reagan, met with Hussein twice in 1983-84 as part of a secret U.S. effort to bolster Iraq's government, which was then fighting a war against Iran.
I could find no mention of the French government's ties to Hussein's regime in French commentary.
Germany's Spiegel Online coverage is detailed, especially about U.S. support for the tribunal and the brutality of Hussein's rule. The newsweekly notes that "Saddam's attorneys are also anxious to call as a witness US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who met with the dictator in 1983.
"The fact that this is unlikely to happen has prompted complaint -- even from Iraqi Minister of Justice Abdel Hussein Shandal -- that the Americans are exerting too much influence over the trial. 'It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide,' said Shanda," according to SO.
The editors of the Guardian, the most vocal British newspaper opposing the war, summed up the antiwar media consensus.
"It is right that [Hussein] be called to account for terrible crimes committed both against his own people and others -- whether or not he was then a friend of the west, or indeed whether the US-led war that overthrew him was itself legal. But even the end of a nightmare has to stand up to international scrutiny. Justice, as ever, must be seen to be done."
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