Saturday, October 15, 2005

No defence

Saddam Hussein is scheduled to go on trial next week for the 1982 Dujail massacre, in which 143 people were executed and thousands tortured or imprisoned in reprisals for an attempt on the dictator's life. According to today's Herald, he intends to plead "sovereign immunity" - the idea that a current or former head of state is above the law and accountable to no-one for their (legal) actions - as a defence. According to the defence, what happened at Dujail was entirely legal and in accordance with Iraqi law at the time, and that the Iraq Special Tribunal's prosecution is a retroactive change of the law, contrary to fundamental principles of justice.

I guess his lawyers didn't read up on Nuremberg. The International Military Tribunal responsible for trying the leaders of the Nazi regime established the principle that there was no sovereign immunity for crimes against humanity, and that heads of state could be held criminally responsible for breaches of customary international law. International human rights law was not well-developed in 1945, but even then, the IMT was able to find clear precedent that waging a war of aggression and violating the "laws of war" (both customary and those in the 1907 Hague Convention) were international crimes which could be punished by anyone. International human rights law has developed a great deal since then, and I think it is safe to say that in 1982, slaughtering a village in retaliation for an assassination attempt was outlawed, regardless of whether Iraq had signed a treaty explicitly saying so or not.


Talking about wars of aggression, I wonder if George and Tony have talked to their lawyers about this yet.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2005 12:23:00 PM

What is legal or illegal in Iraq anyway? If the war in Iraq was illegal in the first place (which it was) then everyting that follows from that war is also illegal. So, "legally speaking", the arrest and trial of Sadam Hussein and his ministers has no basis in "the law". Everything that has happened, and is happening, in Iraq is political and has nothing to do with "legal" or "the Law".

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2005 12:57:00 PM

.."slaughtering a village in retaliation for an assassination attempt"... is this not what the US have done in Falluja, except it was slaughtering a city, shooting at ambulances, attacking hospitals and using Depleted uranium what's good for the goose is also good for the gander?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/17/2005 02:10:00 AM