Saddam lawyers press for access.
Lawyers for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continued to press US authorities today to be given access to their client and threatened legal action if their demands were not met. The team, chosen by the former dictator wife and three daughters, said in a statement they had requested the US administration "to set up a date to meet with the Iraqi President".
Otherwise they "will take the necessary legal measures against any US official who obstructs its action in line with US laws, which give the administration a 20-day deadline" to meet the request.
The group of 20 lawyers, including American Curtis Doebbler, also sent a message to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross asking for its assistance as well as a health report on Saddam's health since his capture.
"We have tried on several occasions to contact the American administration in order to activate the Geneva conventions and meet the Iraqi President to learn of his conditions and health.
"But the American administration has prevented us so far from meeting him," said the message which listed dates of letters sent to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Department of Defence and the State Department.
The letter from the chief defence lawyer, Jordanian Mohammad Rashdan, said the first request was on December 14, the day after US troops captured Saddam in northern Iraq.
"The matter can no longer be delayed. The life of the Iraqi President is in great danger for several reasons including the barbaric and inhuman action confronting prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison," the letter said.
AFP also received a copy of a letter from Doebbler to the Defence Department arguing that the US administration was legally bound to provide information on Saddam.
In the May 28 letter, he cited the US Freedom of Information Act to request "access and copies of all records concerning the current whereabouts of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and all records concerning his medical condition since his capture".
"If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act," he said, adding that he reserved the right to appeal any decision to withhold information.
"Delayed disclosure could threaten the physical safety of the former Iraqi President," Doebbler said.
"We have reason to believe that he may have suffered, or will suffer, torture or inhuman treatment based on the actions of American soldiers and contractors concerning other prisoners in Iraq."
"I look forward to your reply within 20 business days, as the statute requires," Doebbler said.
In a June 3 letter to Rumsfeld, Rashdan charged that "every day that passes without President Hussein being afforded access to his attorneys constitutes another violation of international law. We urge you to allow us access to our client at the earliest possible date".
Rashdan also sent a separate message to French President Jacques Chirac urging him to "stand with international legislation" and prevent the new "illegitimate" Iraqi government from putting Saddam on trial.
[Source: Agence France-Presse, Amman, Jordan, 09Jun04]
War in Iraq
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