Iraq’s governing council has already proposed putting Saddam Hussein on trial before a special Iraqi court under rules drawn up just four days ago for trying members of his regime. Many in the U.S. support the idea.
“I definitely think it would bring this thing to some degree of closure, especially with the palpable fear that the Iraqis had of this terrible man,” said Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts.
But some former US officials say Iraq’s legal system, warped by years of Saddam rule, is far from ready for the challenge.
According to former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,“I don’t think its possible for the Iraqis to try him on their own. They don’t have a structured judicial system. They’ll argue about every detail. It just won’t work."
Most experts agree, Iraq will need international help, but what form? Some human rights groups argue the U.N. should help out as it has in trials for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
But the U.N. refuses to take part in any trial that could result in the death penalty - a punishment Iraq’s governing council says it might well seek.
More likely, experts say, legal help would come from the U.S., Great Britain, and other members of the coalition.
But a law professor who consulted with Iraqi judges over the summer says that also has its risks. “Unfortunately there will be a sense that US support, if it’s only US support, will taint the process as victor’s justice,” said American University Law School Professor Diane Orentlicher.
The administration hasn’t yet said exactly how this will work. But one thing is clear Saddam will not be coming to the U.S. to face trial in any American courtroom.