HRW warns fair trial at risk in Saddam’s case.

An international human rights group warned on Sunday that the court established to try former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his associates runs the risk of violating international standards for fair trials.

Saddam Hussein and seven other former Iraqi officials go on trial Wednesday for crimes that took place in the town of al-Dujail in 1982.

Government security forces allegedly killed more than 140 individuals from al-Dujail in retaliation for an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein as his motorcade passed through the town located north of Baghdad.

But Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper that problems with the tribunal and its statute include the absence of any requirement to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt as well as inadequate protections for the accused.

Also threatening the integrity of the process were disputes among Iraqi political factions over control of the court and requirements that prohibit commutation of death sentences by any Iraqi official and compel execution of the defendant within 30 days of a final judgment, the group said.

“The trials of former Iraqi government officials will be closely watched inside Iraq and throughout the world,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watchs International Justice Programme. “The proceedings must be fair and be seen to be fair, and that means ensuring that the accused can vigorously defend themselves.”

[Source: AFP, New York, 17Oct05]

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