Saddam Hussein could be tried and executed over a relatively minor and isolated
case, before evidence on the full extent of his regime's crimes can be brought
to the courtroom, according to a source close to the special court trying the
former Iraqi leader.
“Theoretically, that could happen...One would not expect things to drag
out bureaucratically,” the source said, when asked whether Saddam could
be convicted and executed rapidly on charges he faces for atrocities against
the Shia residents of one town in the early 1980s.
The case is the first involving charges against the former dictator which will
go before court.
However, Kurdish politicians are concerned that Mr Hussein not simply be tried
and convicted only on this case. They would rather see a broader process embracing
other alleged crimes, which they believe would give full exposure of their community's
claims of genocide during several decades of Mr Hussein's rule.
Mr Hussein's lawyers in Baghdad said this week that they had received the prosecution's
evidence against the former dictator for the alleged atrocities against the
inhabitants of Dujayl, a predominantly Shia town northeast of Baghdad.
This was the site of a July 1982 assassination attempt against the former president.
The referral of charges means that a trial could begin as early as mid-September,
although pre-trial motions or other administrative concerns may delay it.
All charges against Mr Hussein and his associates have been consolidated into
around a dozen cases, each focusing on a specific period and specific place.
The Iraqi Special Tribunal, or IST, formed under US guidance to try those cases,
decided to begin with Dujayl, probably because its "limited geographic
and temporal scope" make it a "relatively straightforward case"
for the prosecution, a former US advisor to the court, Gregg Nivala, said several
The regime's late 1980s Anfal campaign against the Kurds or its repression
of the 1991 Shia uprising reportedly killed tens of thousands of vicitms over
large swathes of the country, rather than a few hundred from a single town.
However, a quick trial in the Dujayl case - which could be as short as a month
- would also satisfy Shia demands for quick justice.
“We insist that this happen without delay,” said Jalal al-Din al-Saghir,
a prominent Shia preacher who has delivered sermons calling for the former president's
swift trial and execution.
Mr Saghir, who also sits in parliament, acknowledged that the death penalty
and the fate of Mr Hussein were points of difference between the Shia and Kurdish
Iraq's Kurdish leadership, many of whom oppose the death penalty on principle,
believe that a lengthy televised trial of Mr Hussein would allow the rest of
the country to understand what the Kurds went through under the former regime,
one of the underpinnings of their demands for autonomy.
The tribunal process "is also part of the search for truth about part
of the political history of Iraq," according to Bakhtiar Amin, a Kurdish
human rights activist who served until recently as Iraq's human rights minister.
Rather than seeking vengeance, "We must know what happened," he said.