Test of freedom: Saddam must be tried fairly in Iraq

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2003

... If there is a guiding principle to be found when weighing the options regarding Saddam Hussein, it is this: He must be tried for his crimes by and before Iraqis.

While technical disagreements over the timing of Saddam's trial and the precise manner in which it is to be conducted must be worked out, the essential fact of a trial before Saddam's own citizens seems to be gaining widespread acceptance. As it should.

Saddam has much to answer for, obviously. And to lots of plaintiffs.

Saddam tried to assassinate the current president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, while he was president. He provided training facilities for terrorists. For those and many other crimes, George W. Bush has a legitimate reason for seeking to try Saddam before an American tribunal. But, appropriately, the president says he is determined to defer this nation's judgment of Saddam to the Iraqis. ...

The resonating effect of Saddam's capture is spreading. Without a resolution of Saddam's fate, Iraq could not proceed beyond his shadow. It could not hold out hope of becoming a safe place. And with the Middle East's most destabilizing force still on the loose, that entire volatile region would remain in flux. His capture gives some semblance of peace there a chance. ...

Iraq remains a dangerous place, of course. But the capture of Saddam and the slow progress toward his legal disposition will help make it a safer, better place.

The Arizona Republic, Phoenix,

Dec. 17

Saddam's overwhelming interest is to avoid being judged by his people. For him, the best outcome would be a trial under the auspices of the United Nations in The Hague. There, detained in enviable comfort, he might hope, like Slobodan Milosevic, to spin out a defense case that could last for years, masking his crimes against humanity with legalistic arguments on the conduct of war and the political bias of his enemies. Human rights groups are calling for an international trial to ensure political fairness. This call is as naive and inappropriate, however, as the demand by some American politicians that Saddam be tried in America. Neither would be acceptable to the Iraqis, and both scenarios would be used by nationalists and Islamist extremists to complain that ''victors justice'' was simply a way of justifying the coalition attack. ... The West is in a strong position to help to set in place a proper legal framework, which would allow judges and lawyers free of past taint to conduct proceedings fairly. The coalition must make clear to the Iraqis that only a trial seen to be fair will satisfy world, as well as Iraqi, opinion.

The Times, London

Dec. 16

It's not foremost for Saddam Hussein that a lynch-mob mentality trial not be permitted to take place.

But if the peace must be won in Iraq, the international community and the country's new leaders must show all Iraqis that there is a new alternative to the past decades of a terrorist regime. Giving Saddam a fair trial is a strong way of proving that.

Besides, if justice is provided, Saddam will, without a doubt, get the punishment he deserves.

Berlingske Tidende, Copenhagen, Denmark,

Dec. 16

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