Why I’m willing to defend Hussein

By Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General, and co-founder of the International Action Center, who in turn was a  co-founder of the ANSWER Coalition.

That Hussein and other former Iraqi officials must have lawyers of their choice to assist them in defending against the criminal charges brought against them ought to be self-evident among a people committed to truth, justice and the rule of law.

The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction. Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.

Hussein has been held illegally for more than a year without once meeting a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice.

International law requires that every criminal court be competent, independent and impartial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal lacks all of these essential qualities. It was illegitimate in its conception — the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law.

The concept, personnel, funding and functions of the court were chosen and are still controlled by the United States, dependent on its will and partial to its wishes. Reform is impossible. Proceedings before the Iraqi Special Tribunal would corrupt justice both in fact and in appearance and create more hatred and rage in Iraq against the American occupation. Only another court — one that is actually competent, independent and impartial — can lawfully sit in judgment.

Any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning.

No power, or person, can be above the law. For there to be peace, the days of victor’s justice must end.

The defense of such a case is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace. A lawyer qualified for the task and able to undertake it, if chosen, should accept such service as his highest duty.

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