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Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Is Saddam's Tribunal Doomed?

On Saturday, the chief judge of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's tribunal, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, tendered his resignation as a judge. Judge Amin is a Kurd, one of the many ethnicities butchered by Hussein's regime, who had committed himself to procedural fairness. Interrupting neither Hussein's tirades nor the emotional stories of victimization from countless witness, Amin committed himself to upholding the legitimacy of the court through impartiality.

The principal source of irritation for Amin, however, came not from Hussein's repeated denunciation of the court, but from the interim government. The government's position, not altogether unreasonable, was that since we know Saddam is guilty, we should attempt to hang him as quickly as possible. News Telegraph reports: "Ministers, including the justice minister, had publicly chastised him for allowing Saddam to make repeated outbursts, while also saying that the trial should be speeded up and Saddam executed as quickly as possible."

Having turned in his resignation days ago, analysts predict that without Amin, the tribunal will lose its dignity and appearance of impartiality.
The court now faces the daunting task of replacing Mr Amin, who, despite the criticism levelled at him, is generally considered among the more capable Iraqi legal minds willing to work for the court.

His supporters say he has brought a degree of courtesy and dignity to the proceedings rarely seen in Arab courts, sending out a message to Iraqis that the rule of law is now paramount.

Moreover, he has been one of only two judges in the court willing to show their faces and have their voices heard. Most of the others have declined to do so, fearing retribution.

In an interview last November Mr Amin conceded that his family worried about him and he had taken on two bodyguards after pressure from friends. But he stressed: "A judge should never be afraid."

Replacing Amin is Said al-Hammashi, who "was born in Baghdad in 1952 to a Shia family, said one of his colleagues, speaking on condition of anonymity. He graduated from the law department of Baghdad University and went on to become a practising lawyer during the Saddam regime, which was brought to an end by the United States-led invasion in March 2003, the colleague said. Mr Hammashi was later sent to Italy and Britain to learn more about crimes against humanity in preparation for the Saddam trial."

Why is the new regime, now having faced elections, determined to hang Saddam quickly? It seems that with the Baath party destroyed, some Kurdish autonomy gained, and an American commitment to defeating the insurgency, the government should concern itself more with socioeconomic matters of services and political matters of inclusive representation. However, the new regime is concerned more with the prospect of a living Saddam as a Napoleon who returns from exile and undoes all their hard work. The soon Saddam hangs, the sooner the regime can blame the old one for its shortcomings.