November 8, 2005

Another Saddam defense team lawyer assassinated.

The assassination of a second lawyer associated with the trial was likely to raise new questions about whether this country can conduct such a sensitive prosecution in the midst of insurgency and domestic turmoil.

Following al-Janabi's death, members of the defense team said they had suspended further dealings with the special court until their safety is guaranteed. Al-Ubaidi said that the entire defense team had rejected an offer of guards from the Interior Ministry, pointing to frequent Sunni Arab accusations that ministry forces or Shiite militias linked to the government have killed members of the minority that was dominant under Saddam.
How can it be a fair trial when the defense lawyers are in fear for their lives?

(Note: there are 1,500 lawyers on the defense team, according to the linked article.)


Undercover Christian said...

That is terrible.

Plus, those assassination attempts could be put to better use by actually targeting Saddam. (Sure, it would be much much harder, but at least you'd be targeting someone who deserved it.)

Icepick said...

I keep wondering if it's Saddam loyalists behind the assassinations. After all, this is one way to show that Saddam & Co. can't be tried by Iraqis, or in Iraq, and therefore the international community will have to step in.


Don't look at me like that. Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean I'm wrong.

PatCA said...

You may be right. There's something else going on here...

Why would Shia kill them? They have been content to sit and wait so far while the coalition does their fighting.

And 1500 lawyers on Raghad's payroll strikes me as a claque of loyalists, not a defense team.

jeff said...

With 1500 lawyers on the defense team, I'd expect that, statistically, some would be dying of natural causes every so often...

Is Ramsey Clark still involved?

PD Shaw said...

According to an Atlantic Monthly article this past summer, 2,000 attorneys "signed up" to be defense attorneys, but 25 at most are actually involved in any aspect of the case. At the time, they were working out of Jordan, ostensibly pro bono.

vbspurs said...

Awful stuff. :(

As Icepick says, my first thought turns to the insurgency, being led and funded by Saddamites (I'm coining this, you've been warned).

OTOH, 1,500 lawyers? What the?

Even N├╝rnberg didn't have that many.

BTW, the oddest thing, is that both these lawyers (and many others besides) refused government protection.

A bit of bravery, or cynicism, I haven't decided which, that sadly cost them their lives.


Goesh said...

-I've wondered too if saddam's cronies aren't behind this. I suppose the Judge(s) will simply have to order the remaining lawyers sequestered in the green zone to insure the old devil has legal representation. Their families will have to go too. These terrorists go whole-hog or none. There'll be no pro bono work on saddam's behalf, that much is certain.

R C Dean said...

Between the 1500 lawyers, the general conditions in Baghdad, and the refusal of government protection, I would say Saddam's "fair trial" is pretty well unaffected.

Its not like he is denied counsel, after all, not with 1498 lawyers left.

The lawyers must not be operating in any fear, if they refuse government protection.

The refusal of protection is a clue that these folks still travel in circles where accepting government protection is tantamount to collaboration with the enemy. Fifth columnists getting bumped off in the low-grade civil war that they have instigated doesn't bring a tear to my eye.

Steven said...

The whole purpose of fair trials is to avoid miscarriages of justice, not as an end in themselves. Given Hussein's freely-admitted crimes (his defense is that a soverign is immune to court proceedings, not that he committed the crimes), there is no way to miscarry justice in punishing him in his person; shooting him in the gut and letting him die slowly upon his capture would not have been excessive or hasty.

(That doesn't mean I'm endorsing torturing Hussein to death, even though it wouldn't be a tenth of a proportionate response to his crimes. Torturing people to death is to be avoided, but because of the damage it does to torturers and to society, not out of consideration for subhuman murdering raping bastards who deserve it.)

So, no, I don't really care if the trial is "fair", except insofar as a fair trial would set a good precedent for Iraq (a fairly minor consideration, I feel). But murdering his lawyers is wrong, and should be pursued vigorously on that basis.

Greg Kuperberg said...

I had hoped that this blog posting would lead to some genuine legal wisdom from a law professor. Unfortunately a lot of people here, including Ann Althouse, are distracted by the preposterous figure of 1,500 defense lawyers in the Saddam Hussein trial.

The New York Times explained it better. Of the 13 defense lawyers who appeared at the first day of the trial, two are dead and one survived attemped assassination. It's safe enough to sign up to defend Saddam Hussein (if that is what the 1,500 did), provided that you never show up in court.

As for the lawyers refusing protection, maybe it's understandable that they didn't want to be "protected" by the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry.

Remember that the whole point of this trial was to, first, set the Iraqi legal system onto a new path, and second, show the world how much better the US can handle it than the Hague does.

So where do we go from here, if defense counsel also gets the death penalty?

Ann Althouse said...

Greg: It makes no sense to say I am distracted by that number. I present it as a side note. Look at what I've written in this post. I mean, read it again. Sheesh!

Bruce Hayden said...


We don't go anywhere. Saddam Hussein is going to die, most likely within the next year. If not convicted on this set of charges, others will be brought. There are a lot of potential cases, because he killed a lot of people while in power.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place here. We want him to get a "fair" trial for political reasons, and are willing to give him as many fair trials as it takes to convict him and have him executed. But we have to let the Iraqis do the trials, and they don't have our patience or appreciation for our definition of due process and a fair trial. They know he is guilty. We all do. They just want to ge ton to the execution.

So, we are trying to slow them down enough that they don't totally outrage world sentiment, without taking control away from them. So, the trial will go on, no matter how many defense attorneys get assassinated. And, if by some miracle, he is acquitted, he will just be charged with another one of his heinious crimes.

Bruce Hayden said...

If my last post sounds illiberal or insensitive, it wasn't designed that way. It was aimed at being realistic.

Greg Kuperberg said...

Ann: I apologize if I misread you. Your own comments were short and the "fair trial" part could have been sarcastic. But sarcasm is always debatable on the Internet. If you sincerely believe that fair trials are important for Iraq's future and there is no fairness in this one, then I respect you for saying it.

In fact it makes you better than some other law bloggers who are so busy promoting the war in Iraq that they hardly apply their real training.

Bruce: It's not that all Iraqis are little children with no patience or appreciation for Western standards of justice. They have a bar, and they have judicial ranks. There are enough mature Iraqis in Iraq to handle this properly, if they had a fair chance.

The problem is that they don't have a fair chance, because their country has fallen to anarchy and theocracy. And even if Iraq didn't have that problem, there would be absolutely no need for Iraqis run the trial of their own hated despot. A fair trial is one run by neutrals, not by victims. Victims should testify, and maybe the prosecutors could be victims, but certainly not the judges, nor the defense lawyers, nor (worst of all) the security guards. The crazy standard of justice organized by victims would never be tolerated in the United States.

Nor was it tolerated at the Nuremberg trials. Jewish Holocaust victims testified at those trials. The judges were not Jewish, the security guards were not Jewish, and even the chief prosecutors were not Jewish. That was very important, because it made the court verdicts all the more convincing.

Greg Kuperberg said...

Ann: On the other hand, even if your parenthetical comment was not the main point, it was inaccurate and a potential distraction for others. Maybe 1,500 lawyers have volunteered to help Saddam Hussein et al in some capacity. The real issue here is the 13 or so lawyers who are directly defending people in court. Two of them are now dead and one is in the hospital.

Bruce: There is also no reason to ignore international charges against Saddam Hussein and try him only for domestic crimes. One of Washington's motives here is to give the finger to the Hague. Although obviously they are poking themselves in the eye with that extended finger.

America once had a president with the same name but with a different and more sensible approach. Manuel Noriega was convicted in Florida, not in Panama itself.