Saddam steps up his defence.

Saddam Hussein's defence team is preparing to call a string of British and American politicians to testify at the deposed Iraqi dictator's trial for war crimes, according to a legal expert.

The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the outgoing Secretary of State, Colin Powell, could be among those called to give evidence about the decision to invade Iraq as part of moves to justify the ousted Iraqi dictator's invasions of Iran and Kuwait.

Defence lawyers are also expected to attempt to get members of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher's government to testify at the Iraqi Special Tribunal, to discuss US and UK support for his regime in the 1980s.

Saddam was discovered hiding in a hole in the ground on a farm near the Tigris River a year ago on Monday, and is being held in an isolation cell at a US-controlled base for "high value" detainees at Baghdad Airport.

His trial will not start until after the elections in Iraq next month and Professor Michael Scharf, a renowned American expert on international law, said the case could take up to a year.

This is despite moves by the prosecution team to prevent Saddam using the delaying tactics which have dogged the war crimes trial of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, at the Hague.

Prof Scharf, who trained the Iraqi judges and prosecutors who will deal with Saddam's case at a week-long conference in London earlier this year, said he had drawn up a likely defence strategy against the accusation that Saddam waged aggressive wars against Kuwait and Iran.

This involves the claim that the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003 was also an aggressive war and therefore it was unfair to prosecute him alone for the offence.

Prof Scharf said: "A consensus was reached there [at the London conference] that they would prosecute Saddam for aggression, and they asked me to do a presentation of Saddam's potential defence."

The strategy he came up with was the tu quoque or "you also" defence, which would basically argue that other countries had done the same thing and not been prosecuted.

This was a defence used at Nuremberg trials by the German admiral Doenitz, who was accused of waging unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic in the Second World War. He avoided the charge when Chester Nimitz, commander of the US 7th fleet, said he had done the same thing in the Pacific.

Recent reports suggest Saddam's defence team is preparing to use exactly the same strategy, with politicians from France, Austria and Britain on the list of possible witnesses.

Prof Scharf said: "I think what's going to happen is that he will be able to use the US invasion of 2003 and the argument that the US has made use of an aggressive war.

"That's an area where the US actions are going to be relevant and absolutely, if you [the defence] could show that their testimony would be relevant, you'd want to call Rumsfeld, Colin Powell ... whoever you could get."

He said the court might not agree to call the witnesses and they also might refuse to appear, but this would help Saddam's other main argument that the trial was not fair. "I'm sure what Saddam is hoping to accomplish is to look as though he is a martyr," Prof Scharf said.

He said it had been decided to insist Saddam Hussein was represented by a lawyer and a pre-trial motion would be made to this effect. This will mean he will not be able to represent himself, a tactic used by Milosevic to delay his trial by saying he is too ill to attend court.

The prosecution is also bringing only "sample charges" rather than attempting to prove every accusation against him. Other charges expected to be laid include acts of genocide against Kurds and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, torture and mistreatment of prisoners of war.

"Because of the prosecution strategy, this is going to be a lot shorter than the Milosevic case. I would think they could do this in under a year," Prof Scharf said.

He added the outcome was in little doubt. "From the documents made public, the case is pretty overwhelming, the atrocities are awful, and the Iraqis have decided they want to have the death penalty," he said.

Rime Allaf, an Iraq specialist at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIS) in London, said members of former US President Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher's governments might also be called to testify about the support given to Saddam by the West during the Iraq-Iran war.

"If this trial was being held in the Hague, I would say it would make perfect sense for the whole Reagan administration and the Thatcher administration to be called to testify," she said.

However the RIIS associate fellow doubted this would be allowed by the tribunal judge: "I think it will be the modern-day equivalent of a lynching in the Wild West. I think that everybody more or less accepts the trial and the sentence is a foregone conclusion."

[Source: Ian Johnston, The Scotsman, 11Dec04]

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War in Iraq
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