Monday, December 05, 2005

The trial of our time…

This is how some local media chose to describe Saddam’s trial.
Today the trial witnessed many changes for the Iraqi viewer. There has been a lot of action that wiped off the memories of previous sessions that were pretty much boring; today we have seen the trial get into the real work discussing facts, evidence and witnesses and this of course pinned the viewers in front of the TV.
It was eight of us following the trial. Talking in whispers and shutting up anyone who wanted to speak with a sign from the hand.

At the beginning (as you might have seen) the defense tried to disrupt the court by questioning the legitimacy of the court and the laws under which it was formed but these were futile attempts because the lawyers built their allegations of older Security Council resolutions that are irrelevant to the trial and they ignored the later resolutions that transferred sovereignty to Iraqi hands and they also ignored the regulations issued by the elected government and parliament that organized the court months after Paul Bremer left Iraq.

The theatrical act of walking away from the court only to return back soon after was actually pathetic and unconvincing and when Ramzi Clark and the Qatari lawyer Najeeb Noaimi were given the time to talk they returned to talk about things like occupation and that again they concentrated on UN and international laws and conventions when it came to the legitimacy of the past regime while they didn’t refer to any of the laws and resolutions that recognize the legitimacy of the current government and the political process in general.

One sentence from the Qatari lawyer was enough to show that he was very far from reality, that was when he spoke of “five million children who died because of the sanctions).
I really don’t know where he got this number from but what I know is that his language was a lot similar to Saddam’s who invested the death of Iraqi children to get compassion from the world while he was destroying whole shipments of milk, food and medicine or worse re-exporting to make bloody profits for himself.

The judge was firm-yet gentle-in keeping the proceedings on track every time there was some distraction and he failed all attempts made by this or that party to politicize the trial.
The crime was committed back in 1982, that’s long time before any of the political stuff happened and all the involved parties in the incident were Iraqi, the land, the victims, the butchers were all Iraqi and execution orders were still being documented at that time and in my opinion this is what encouraged the prosecution to put this case first on schedule; it’s the most documented case and again it’s pure Iraqi while if we take a look at other cases we will find that some extrinsic factors are related like the invasion of Kuwait or the war with Iran or Halabja (geographical factor) in addition to the issue of the providers of the chemical weapons that were used in these cases. This will all complicate the cases and make them more difficult to solve but Dujail is a pure Iraqi case.

I think the most important part of today’s session was the two witnesses who showed up to testify in spite of all what we heard from the media that witnesses are scared to death and they wouldn’t show up!
What we saw today makes me believe that there will be even more witnesses from the sons of Dujail who will walk in and testify.

The first witness was 15 years old in 1982, he said that he was arrested along with his parents, 8 brother and six sisters and he spoke in detail about his story from the time Saddam made his speech in Dujail till the time when he (the witness) and some of his family were released from prison in 1986 and I say “some” because this man lost 7 of his brothers during those years at the hands of the brutal regime.

The witness referred to excerpts from Saddam’s speech in front of the people of Dujail and he described how Saddam’s convoy came under fire after Saddam left the house of a local sheikh. Then he began describing how he and his family were interrogated in the Baath Party HQ and here he pointed at Barzan (Saddam’s half brother) and said that “he was in charge of the interrogations” and accused Barzan of giving orders to kill his brothers. Here Barzan yelled “to hell with you and your brothers!”.

The butcher lost control over himself and starting shouting only to be silenced by the judge, then some of the lawyers began complaining from someone who apparently was whispering threats at the lawyers or staring at them!
Again, Barzan lost control and started cursing and spitting at someone in the upper section of the hall, supposedly the same person who was threatening the lawyers; this person’s identity wasn’t revealed but the judge ordered security to get him out.
Now court hall was back to order.
The witness continued to tell the horror story of the four years he spent with his family being tortured and moved from one prison to another.
The prosecution asked him if anyone died during torture and the answer was “yes”. The witness named some people who were mentioned at an earlier time in the interview that a Dujail survivor agreed to give us; Sabriya and Yousif Yakoob were among the names we heard today and were mentioned in the interview we posted two years ago. Coincidence? I believe not.

The witness also talked about women who died with their babies during labor while in prison and I believe one of the cases belong to the mother of our friend Dr. Firas.

He also accused a well known NGO, the “association of free prisoners” of not giving him access to the important documents he gathered in the first place and he said the organization is “keeping the documents to make material benefits at the expense of our bloods” a serious claim that urges thorough and immediate investigation.

The testimony in general was very touching that it forced the butchers to shut up for a long time and even when Saddam tried to act as if he were still in power he looked so stupid and foolishly arrogant in front of the suffering of the witness who finished his statement by saying “at age 15 I went to prison for 4 years with the rest of my family, seven of my brothers were executed and none of us got the chance to see a judge or get a fair trial’.

The second witness adhered more to the core of the case unlike the first one who somewhat weakened his position by getting into details he should have stayed away from.
Whoever, this is totally understandable from a person who lived every detail of the whole tragedy, someone who never ceased to get flashbacks from the massacre that fell upon him, his family and his entire town.
With time, those details became an inerasable part of his memory and we can’t blame him for talking about atrocities that he didn’t witness in person.

Anyway, this doesn’t change anything from the fact that a massacre was committed and those who did it shall face justice.

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