Monday, February 06, 2006

Saddam trial: Evidence may not be enough to get conviction

After four months and 26 witnesses, prosecutors in the Saddam Hussein trial have offered little credible testimony directly linking the former leader to the killings and torture for which he's charged.



But legal experts familiar with the case say the best may be yet to come documents allegedly tying Saddam to the crackdown that followed an assassination attempt against him 23 years ago in Dujail, a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad.

Without compelling evidence, a guilty verdict against Saddam may not provide closure for victims of Saddam's atrocities. But the experts caution that the documents which include hand written notes, interrogation orders and death sentences handed down by the Revolutionary Court may not alone be enough to win a conviction.

What is needed, they said, is to establish a clear chain of command that would show Saddam would have known what happened to the more than 140 Shiites killed and the others tortured after the 1982 attempt on the former ruler's life in Dujail, north of Baghdad.

The evidence to date mostly testimony from people who were arrested and allegedly tortured has pointed to a brutal crackdown but has not showed that Saddam played a direct role. Saddam and the seven co-defendants, charged in the Dujail killings, could face death by hanging if convicted.

"The testimonies we have heard so far are moving but they are not enough and that's causing us concern," said Nehal Bhuta, a Human Rights Watch lawyer following the Saddam trial. "What is needed is evidence linking each of the eight defendants to what happened or evidence that Saddam could not have not known," he said by telephone from New York.

But the chief prosecutor maintains that he has the evidence to win a conviction that will be accepted not only by those Iraqis who are eager to see Saddam hang but also international legal institutions that have been skeptical of an Iraqi trial from the start.

Source and further reading here. (3 pages)