Judge Not in Control of Saddam Trial

As Saddam Hussein’s trial resumed today, it once again degenerated into a a publicity stunt for the defendant as the judge remains unable to stand up to the former dictator.

Hussein Trial Resumes in Baghdad — Defense Team Walks Out, Wins Right to Present Claims (WaPo)

After staging a walkout from the courtroom Monday, lawyers for Saddam Hussein won the right to present their claims that the defendants cannot get a fair trail. The walkout was led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a new member of the defense team. It came an hour after the trial resumed Monday morning following a week-long adjournment. The courtroom was recessed in confusion after the lawyers left and Hussein and several of his several co-defendants stood, shouting protests.

“Long live Iraq,” Hussein shouted at the judge. “Long live Saddam,” one of the seven co-defendants yelled.

“Why don’t you just sentence us and execute us now?” yelled Barzan Ibrahim Tikrit, Hussein’s half-brother, who is also on trial.

After an hour recess, the judges returned and said the lawyers could speak.

This trial has gone on like this for several sessions. In an American court, the lawyers would be in jail for contempt of court and possibly disbarred. The defendant would be in shackles or simply barred from the proceedings.

Court Reverses Ruling in Saddam Trial (AP)

The court in the Saddam Hussein trial allowed former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and another foreign defense lawyer to address the session Monday, reversing a ruling that had led the defense to walk out. After a 90-minute recess, Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin allowed Clark and ex-Qatari Justice Minister Najib al-Nueimi to speak on the questions of the legitimacy of the tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

“Reconciliation is essential,” Clark told the court. “This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq.”

While I agree that this trial is indeed partly about “national healing,” it is also about the rule of law. If “special” defendants are given this much latitude, the principle that no man is above the law is rendered moot.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Where’s Lance Ito when you need him?

    For that matter, it’s a pity Johnnie Cochran has gone on to his reward.