Skip to main content
 » Inside the tribunal  |  Hussein's charges  |  Special Report

Lawyers doubt Hussein trial fairness

Former U.S. attorney general raises security concerns

Ramsey Clark says the judges "seem to be determined not to hear any of our arguments."


Is the chief judge being strict enough controlling proceedings in the Saddam trial?
or View Results


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, one of two foreign lawyers on Saddam Hussein's defense team, said Monday it would be "very difficult" for the deposed Iraqi dictator's trial to be fair.

Clark told CNN that defense attorneys "have no protection. You can't have a fair trial that way."

The other foreign member of Hussein's team, former Qatari Justice Minister Najib Nuaimi, expressed a similar sentiment, saying he didn't believe the inexperienced court is capable of handling the trial.

Nevertheless, Nuaimi said he was confident that Hussein would prevail in the case.

Hussein and seven co-defendants are on trial for the torture and killing of more than 140 men and boys 23 years ago in the mostly Shiite town of Dujail. The killings are alleged to have been retribution for a failed assassination attempt on Hussein.

The proceedings are part criminal and part civil, with the witnesses also being plaintiffs demanding compensation for what they say Hussein and members of his regime did in Dujail.

Clark told CNN the arrangement is problematic.

"I've never seen it before where both of these witnesses, what they call plaintiffs, are suing for damages, in a case where people's lives are at stake," Clark said.

"That means they will testify for bigger judgment for themselves," he said. "They have a personal monetary motive in making it seem this was a terrible thing and they lost a lot of money."

Clark said it would be "very, very difficult" for the proceedings to be fair.

"The court was chaotic half the time," he said. "Two or three people speaking at once. It was highly divisive when it ought to have a healing effect. But the only way to have a healing effect is to be fair, and you don't get that sense. Certainly the defense doesn't."

The judges "seem to be determined not to hear any of our arguments," Clark said. "They wanted to rush to judgment."

Despite expressing confidence of victory, Nuaimi urged the judges to refer the case "to the international criminal court."

"We [will] win it 100 percent," he said. "Because as everybody has heard, there is not even one piece of evidence being brought up, either written or oral, really condemning Mr. Saddam or his colleagues."

Nuaimi and Clark spoke to the court early Monday after initially being denied the opportunity; they forced a delay in the trial and a reversal by the judge by walking out.

Nuaimi addressed the legitimacy of the court, and Clark discussed the lack of security protection for the defense team.

"I hope we'll get quick action from the court on it," Clark told CNN after the day's session. "The main thing we wanted was protection for the Iraqi defense lawyers. Representing defendants is not supposed to be a suicide pact."

Two defense attorneys have been killed and a third wounded in attacks since the trial began in October.

Nuaimi told CNN after the end of Monday's testimony that although he is confident of victory, the legitimacy of a court appointed by the U.S.-backed government is in doubt.

"We're still holding the illegitimacy of the court," he said. "We're still holding the jurisdiction. They do not have jurisdiction."

Addressing the judges, he said, "You cannot handle this trial. Please, refer it to the international criminal court. The international criminal court has professional judges, professional prosecutors."

Clark suggested the court is under the influence of outside pressures.

"If it's pressured by powerful influences like assassins, then it's not independent, is it?" Clark said. "It's got to be impartial."

He added, "The problem is the court really feels powerless. Who are we? We can't order the United States; the United States orders us. We can't order the Iraqi government; the Iraqi government orders us."

Both Nuaimi and Clark said a petition from the defense attorneys had been necessary to force the judges -- who initially said they were tired and would adjourn until Wednesday -- to return to court on Tuesday.

"We're tired just like them," Nuaimi said.

Clark said any further delays would be dangerous, because television coverage is "inflaming passions" with each passing moment.

"It makes it more dangerous every day," he said.

Clark, 77, attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson and the son of Tom Clark, a former attorney general and Supreme Court justice, has been a civil rights attorney and activist in recent years.

Clark, who opposed the Iraq war, met with Hussein in February 2003, just before the U.S.-led invasion began.

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines