The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal fails to comply with international standards of fairness and independence

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its partner organisation the Human Rights & Democracy Organisation in Iraq (HRDOI) express their deepest concerns regarding the way in which the trial of Saddam Hussein and of the main officials of his regime is proceeding. The continuation of the trial despite the dismissal and the removal of judges as well as the absence of the defendants and the defence lawyers are alarming signs of the potential inability of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT). The lack of independence and impartiality means that the SICT is failing to meet international human rights standards of fair trial.

On 15 January 2006, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin resigned for « personal reasons » and was replaced by Raouf Rashid Abdel-Rahman. Rizgar Mohammed Amin was reportedly strongly criticized in Iraq, in particular by Iraqi parliamentarians and government officials for his handling of the trial and was accused of being lenient with Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants. One of Amin’s advisers, Said Al-Hammashi who was allegedly slated to replace Amin was asked to another case. No official reason was given for Al-Hammashi’s removal but he has faced allegations from Iraq’s de-Baathification Committee that he was a member of the Baath Party under Saddam Hussein’s rule. These facts demonstrate the continuous political interferences into the Court functioning and contradict namely the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1985.

Furthermore, on 2 February 2006, the newly appointed judge Abdel-Rahman decided to carry on with the trial while the majority of defendants and the defence lawyers were refusing to appear. They accuse the new chief judge of bias against them. The defence argues that this Kurdish judge cannot maintain impartiality as his home town, Halabja, was attacked with poison gas by Iraqi forces in 1988. Three of the defendants who had not already been boycotting the trial were barred from attending the Court’s session for disorderly behaviour. Our organisations consider the SICT acts as flagrant violations of Art. 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which includes the right to be present at one’s own trial.

FIDH and its Iraqi members have, for a number of years, strongly urged for the trial of Saddam Hussein and the main officials of his regime. In this regard, on the eve of the first trial in October 2005, our organisations had considered the fact that a trial in Iraq for international crimes was essential and represented a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, facing the repeated infringements of the independence of the judiciary, FIDH and HRDOI firmly believe that to date, the SICT is not in a position to secure a fair, independent and impartial trial. This is reinforced by a widespread context of insecurity in Iraq, a situation which makes the proper functioning of the Court even more difficult and does not create a situation in which the physical and psychological integrity of all parties involved can be guaranteed.

Our organisations call upon the Iraqi authorities to effectively answer the need for support to the SICT from the international community under UN mandate, to allow for a fair trial in compliance with the international law, and to consider all complementary modalities that would strengthen the role and impact of an effective transitional justice.

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