AWOL

After yesterday’s courtroom outburst and threats of a boycott, Saddam Hussein followed through, at least partially today by not attending a court session. The trial adjourned until December 21, 2005.

After two prosecution witnesses described beatings and torture by the regime, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin adjourned the proceedings and said the court would reconvene six days after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

On Tuesday, Saddam had said he would not to take part in what he called an “unjust” court.

The other defendants and Saddam’s lawyers were present in the courtroom when Amin convened the session at 3 p.m., about four hours late. Amin said the court would inform Saddam about or brief him on the proceedings that took place during his absence.

The judge then told defense attorneys that the court will meet with them “after today’s hearing to discuss the security of the lawyers,” which became a major issue after two members were murdered.

Court official Raid Juhi told reporters after the session that Saddam attended a closed-door hearing that preceded the public session “and the court decided that he should be removed from the hearing on the basis of the law.”

“So Saddam did not boycott but he was allowed to stay out of the hearing on the basis of a certain request,” Juhi said without explaining what it was. “He was present at the courtroom during the closed session. He presented something to the court and the court decided to excuse him.”

Juhi said Saddam would attend the Dec. 21 session.

“The court is trying to balance the rights of the defense with the rights of victims,” Juhi added.

They should be dragging this guy out of his bed every morning and force him to sit through and listen to the testimony of his victims. His protestations of injustice and his outright denial of responsibility is completely outrageous.

(Take a deep breath, phew.)

I admit, this is a tough one for me. The idea that a brutal dictator like Saddam should have any rights at all after what he’s done to the Iraqi people is a hard pill to swallow. But, the reality is, he does have the support of some in Iraq and if this trial is to succeed in serving up any justice it must be legitimate. The ‘letter of the law’ has to be followed.

Still, this shouldn’t excuse Saddam’s behavior. His little courtroom tantrums have to be stopped, or the trial will turn into a complete circus and it’s legitimacy will be called into question.

It’s a real balancing act for Judge Amin. So far he’s done a fair job. Let’s hope he has an iron will and can see this process through.

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