A Near Term Retrospective on the Al-Dujail Trial & the Death of Saddam Hussein
Newton, Michael A.
Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti died at the hands of Iraqi officials at dawn on December 30, 2006, following a tumultuous fourteen month trial3 for crimes committed against the citizens of a relatively obscure Iraqi village known as al-Dujail. Maintaining his façade of disdain when the verdict and sentence were announced on November 5, 2006, Saddam entered the courtroom with an arrogant strut and refused to stand until the guards made him do so to hear the judge’s opinion... Following the trial, Saddam died as a convicted criminal whose crimes were documented in a 283 page judgment. The opinion is a thorough and organized catalogue of the factual record of evidence from the trial and the investigative file. The Trial Judgment carefully assesses the elements of each charged offense, along with the relevant mens rea demonstrated by the available evidence, and it applies the relevant domestic and international law to each and every charge against each of the eight defendants in detail. Although Saddam’s execution does undercut the “expressive value” of the subsequent and important trials that remain, its legal foundations, factual findings, and judicial inferences are preserved in the extensive opinion for the world, and particularly Iraqis, to read and analyze. The grossly sectarian overtones of the botched execution do not negate the entirety of the publicly accessible trial sessions, in which the defense presented more than sixty witnesses and the prosecution introduced more than twenty witnesses (termed complainants in Iraqi law). The flawed execution is an incomplete snapshot of the legal process that brought down Saddam. Saddam’s execution rekindles memories of the confrontational cross-examination of Herman Goering, whose theatrical performance appeared to make him overshadow the Chief Prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, who served as U.S. Solicitor General and Supreme Court Justice. Just as Goering’s short term triumph is not today remembered as a metaphor for the entire International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg the botched execution of Saddam does not encapsulate all that is memorable or important about the first complete trial held by the Iraqi High Criminal Court.