Having rushed their way through a trial which failed to meet basic standards of justice, the Americans and the Iraqi government are now engaged in an unseemly rush to execute Saddam Hussein, with reports that he could be killed as early as tomorrow. Meanwhile, more evidence is emerging that the process has been a stacked farce from start to finish. According to Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi appeals court did not even bother to hold a hearing on Saddam's appeal, and took a mere three weeks to "consider" the 300-page judgement and defence submissions. In other words, it was little more than a Texan-style rubber stamp for execution. But then after a "trial" in which evidence was withheld from the defence, the defence were not allowed to properly confront prosecution witnesses, and the judges were replaced whenever it looked like Saddam might get a fair go, this is hardly surprising.
Apart from the fundamental obscenity of execution, this undermines the entire verdict. We should not begrudge criminal suspects a fair chance in court; rather we should welcome it, both as a basic safeguard to protect the innocent, and to ensure that the verdict is sufficiently robust to withstand scrutiny. In war crimes cases there is an additional element: Saddam's trial could have been a chance to fully document his crimes and make their reality and horror absolutely unquestionable. Instead, we have had a pathetic farce, a slow-motion lynching which will allow his supporters to forever claim that he was a victim of "victor's justice". His victims - and the world - deserve better.