Roger L. Simon

Dept. of War Crimes - And the Kofi (Beat) Goes On!

We all know by now that the trials of the leading Baathists are about to begin in Iraq, with ‘Chemical Ali‘ the first in the dock. But in the holiday madness many of us may have missed (I certainly did) this disturbing report by USMA law instructor Michael A. Newton about European and UN assistance–or rather lack thereof–in helping to bring Saddam and his henchman to justice.

Last month I spent a week in London working with the group of judges and prosecutors who form the core of the [Iraqi] special tribunal. They are a distinguished group of patriots who know more than any outsider how critical the rule of law will be for the future of their country. Yes, just like other inexperienced judges on previous tribunals elsewhere in the developing world, they have much to learn about conducting complex trials in accordance with the most modern nuances of international law. But they are dedicated to doing so. As one Iraqi told me, “My job is to judge, not to murder.”

Unfortunately, their pleas for assistance are going unanswered. For example, some of the most experienced practitioners from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had initially agreed to participate in the London sessions. At the last minute, however, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan lamely insisted that these experts were all too busy in The Hague to help the Iraqis, and he ordered them to stay home.

Not him? Not that “great progressive” Kofi Annan, always on the side of the downtrodden (as long as they’re not Rwandans, Sudanese or, alas, Iraqis). Oh, well, he’s probably a little busy with Oil-for-Food investigations. Surely the world’s great human rights organizations will help the Iraqis. After all, Saddam Hussein murdered over 300,000 of his fellow citizens, lopped off limbs of thousands of others, sent his enemies through paper shredders, etc. But wait…

Similarly, Amnesty International has issued a press release insisting that the “trial of Saddam Hussein must draw on international expertise,” but has failed to provide any such help. Human Rights Watch took testimony from Iraqi victims who thought they were helping develop cases against Iraqis suspected of crimes. But according to American officials, the organization, without consulting the witnesses, refused to provide all the statements or to give all the victims’ identities to the special tribunal. Human Rights Watch has even taken issue with the statute’s ban on former Baath Party members sitting in judgment of the accused. Would the group have wanted Nazis passing judgment at Nuremberg?

Okay, I give up. The world is upside down. Call in the Mad Hatter. Maybe he can assist in the trials. (hat tip: Judith Weiss)

UPDATE: And if the above doesn’t get enough steam coming out of your ears, take a look at further skullduggery Don Kofi is up to. Now it’s getting personal–it’s our Internet he’s after.