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Training sessions held for Saddam trial

U.S. and British officials provided training in international law to Iraqi judges and prosecutors who will try Saddam Hussein, British officials said Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. and British officials provided a week of training in international law to about 30 Iraqi judges and prosecutors who will try former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants, British officials said Friday.

The members of the Iraqi Special Tribunal attended the seminars in London last week and were addressed by legal experts from the United States and Britain, said a spokesman for the Foreign Office.

“We are keen to ensure that the special tribunal meets international standards and that people are kept up to date on international legal issues,” the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity, as is customary in Britain. “Of course, there is a lot of work to be done.”

The topics under discussion included crimes against humanity and war crimes, he said. The group was addressed over dinner by Lord Harry Woolf, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, his office said.

Saddam appeared in court July 1 to hear seven preliminary charges, including killing rival politicians, gassing the Kurds in 1988, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite Muslim uprisings in 1991.

Eleven of his leading officials also face trial. They include Ali Hasan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in chemical weapons attacks against the Kurds; Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Saddam’s defense minister; Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president; and Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister and the international face of Saddam’s regime.

Very difficult assignment
Trying Saddam and former regime members is fraught with difficulties. It has become increasingly difficult to exhume mass graves, recover lost and looted documents and guarantee the safety of judges, lawyers and witnesses amid spiraling violence in the country.

Some frightened judges have withdrawn from consideration for the tribunal, and there are questions about whether witnesses will testify publicly against former regime members.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi predicted that Saddam’s trial could start this month, but a U.S. official all but dismissed that notion.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has that said the tribunal must meet international legal norms and standards and that the world body would not support bringing Saddam before a tribunal that might sentence him to death.

The New York Times reported that Annan barred lawyers and judges from the U.N. war crimes tribunal from participating in the London training sessions because of his concerns.

“That is a matter for the U.N.,” the Foreign Office spokesman said. “They have considerable expertise in this area, and we would like to see them assist as well.”