Briefing Paper

Associate Fellow, International Law Programme
  • Saddam Hussein and a number of other high-ranking Ba'athists are to stand trial for the massacre in 1982 of more than one hundred civilians in the village of Dujail. Other persons expected to appear before the Court in the future include Ali Hassan al-Majid ('Chemical Ali') and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
  • The Iraqi Higher Criminal Court, which will try them, is a special court established to try Iraqi nationals and residents of Iraq for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and a small number of domestic Iraqi offences relating to the abuse of political power.
  • The Court was originally established as the Iraqi Special Tribunal under the direction of the Coalition Provisional Authority. A new law being adopted by Iraq's Transitional National Assembly will reconstitute the Court, changing its name and making other changes designed to bring it further within the Iraqi criminal justice system.
  • This paper describes the Court and addresses such questions as these:
    - Can the Court deliver fair trials, given the ongoing security crisis in Iraq, the damaged state of the Iraqi justice system, and rumours of political interference?
    - Are there sufficient due process guarantees to ensure a fair hearing for the accused?
    - Why did the Security Council not set up a tribunal? What is being done to provide international assistance for the trials?
    - Will this be a repeat of the televised Milosevic trial, with attendant possibilities for grandstanding by the accused?