BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – The Iraqi court which will hold Saddam Hussein’s second trial next week, on charges of genocide against the Kurds, has proven it is incapable of holding fair hearings, a human rights group said on Friday.
“Based on extensive observations of the tribunal’s conduct of its first trial … Human Rights Watch believes that the Iraqi High Tribunal is presently incapable of fairly and effectively trying a genocide case,” the group said.
The ousted Iraqi president, who is awaiting a verdict in his first trial for crimes against humanity, will be in the dock again on Monday for the so-called Anfal campaign of killings of tens of thousands of Kurds in the north in the late 1980s.
The first trial of Saddam and seven co-accused in connection with the killings of 148 Shi’ites in the 1980s was marred by the killing of three defence lawyers and the resignation of the tribunal’s first chief judge over what he said was government interference. It was adjourned until Oct. 16.
“None of the Iraqi judges and lawyers has shown an understanding of international criminal law. The court’s administration has been chaotic and inadequate, making it unable to conduct a trial of this magnitude fairly,” the group said.
It also questioned the extensive reliance on anonymous witnesses, which it said undercut the defence’s right to confront the evidence and cross-examine their testimony.
Saddam and six other defendants, including his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for ordering gas attacks, are accused of genocide for their role in the Anfal campaign.
Kurds say tens of thousands of people perished and that entire villages were wiped out in the violence.
“The Anfal campaign was a genocide carried out against part of the Kurdish population,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.
“Genocide is the most serious crime there is, and it’s essential that the tribunal conducts the Anfal trial fairly,” he said in a statement accompanying a report on Anfal.
Human Rights Watch said it had conducted extensive field research in northern Iraq in 1992 and concluded that between 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 had been killed during a series of military campaigns between February and August 1988.
“Our investigation showed the Iraqi government ordered the extermination of part of its Kurdish population. But individual guilt or innocence in the Anfal case can only be determined through a fair trial,” Dicker said.
The Kurds see the Anfal campaign as one of the most potent symbols of their suffering under Saddam, who described Kurdish leaders as traitors.