U.S. still deciding Saddam’s fate; public trial a possibility

Amnesty International has said he should be considered a prisoner
of war.
Monday, December 15, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:50 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. officials said they still haven’t decided what to do with Saddam Hussein now that he’s been captured, but one option is putting him before a special tribunal established just days ago. Iraq’s Governing Council said Saddam would face public trial in Iraq.

Iraq’s interim government established a special tribunal Wednesday to try top members of Saddam’s government for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the time, they said Saddam could be tried in absentia.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said at a news conference Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition was still deciding what to do with Saddam.

“At this point, that has not been determined — we continue to process Saddam at this point in time, and those issues will be resolved in the near future,” Sanchez said.

Iraqi officials were more certain. Adnan Pachachi, the president of Iraq’s Governing Council, said Saddam would face open, public trial inside Iraq. That sentiment was echoed by other members of the council.

“There’s no question that the process will be an Iraqi process,” Pachachi said.

Governing Council member Mouwafak al-Rabii said any trial would be conducted in accordance with international norms.

“Iraq is truly victorious now because of the arrest of the tyrant, but we won’t lose sight of human rights and international standards,” he said in Baghdad.

There was no immediate U.S. reaction to the Governing Council claims. The human rights group Amnesty International said Saddam should be given prisoner of war status, and he should be allowed visits by the international Red Cross.

The tribunal will cover crimes committed from July 17, 1968 — the day Saddam’s Baath Party came to power — until May 1, 2003 — the day President Bush declared major hostilities over, said Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council. Saddam became president in 1979 but weilded vast influence starting from the early 1970s.

The tribunal will try cases stemming from mass executions of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, the suppression of uprisings by Kurds and Shiite Muslims after the 1991 Gulf War and cases committed against Iran — with which Iraq fought a bloody 1980-88 war — and against Kuwait, which Iraq invaded in 1990, sparking the Gulf War.

The first suspects brought to trial could include top officials of Saddam’s government who appeared on the U.S. 55 most-wanted list.

Some of those are already in coalition custody, including former foreign minister Tariq Aziz, former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan and Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in chemical attacks on Kurds in the 1980s.

The U.S. occupation authority suspended using the death penalty, and Iraqi officials have said they will decide whether to reinstate it when a transitional government assumes sovereignty July 1.

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