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[casi] AEI / No "smoking gun" to convict Saddam Hussein yet, say Iraqi experts

Thursday December 18, 9:26 AM

No "smoking gun" to convict Saddam Hussein yet, say Iraqi experts

Iraqi legal experts warned of the huge difficulties ahead in finding
decisive evidence of Saddam Hussein's guilt in crimes committed by his
regime in Iraq.

Much of the international community has been debating whether Saddam could
face the death penalty for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the experts said at a Washington meeting organised by the American
Enterprise Institute that any trial of Saddam could simply get bogged down
over the lack of evidence.

"It is one thing to say what we all know about what Saddam did. But it's
another to prove it in a court of law," warned Kanan Makiya, founder of the
Iraq Memory Foundation, one of the groups helping to draw up a new Iraqi

Because "we don't have a smoking gun to convict Saddam. We will need
witnesses, documents," he said.

The foundation is gathering and analyzing documents from various parts of
the Iraqi regime, including the intelligence services, police and army.

Some six million pages, most signed by the former Iraqi leader and his close
deputies over the three decades of his regime have been collected by the

According to Hassan Mneimneh, an official at an Iraqi research and
documentation center at Harvard University, "Saddam was shielded."

"We have here a structure of oppression with layers of intermediates (while)
he issued only general statements, limiting himself to a boring but non
compromising rhetoric.

"He believed it was necessary to protect himself," Mneimneh added.

So, the experts said, it might be easier for example to charge Ali Hassan
Al-Majid, dubbed "Chemical Ali", whose capture was announced August 21, than
Saddam Hussein.

"We have many smoking guns with regards to Ali Hassan Majid's responsibility
in very serious crimes committed in Iraq," said Kanan Makiya. "Saddam is a
much more difficult case."

According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), 100,000 Kurds were killed
or disappeared in Kurdistan by Al-Majid between 1987 and 1988. Iraqi Kurds
accuse him of ordering a gas attack that killed about 5,000 people in
Al-Majid also led repression in 1991 against Shiites in southern Iraq at the
end of the first Gulf War.
Neil Kritz, an international law expert and one of the architects of the
Russian draft constitution (1990-1991), said that international law should
be brought to bear on the Iraqi former dictator in attempting to bring
justice to bear.

"International law recognizes a top commander responsibility. We need to
build the case in showing the nature of a system killing a large number of
people," Kritz said. "If you can demonstrate that the ultimate commander was
aware of the crimes, it is valuable in terms of international law."

On the ground meabwhile three US soldiers were wounded in separate rocket
and mortar attacks in Iraq's northern capital Wednesday, Iraqi security
sources said.

The 101st Airborne Division's public affairs section had no information on
the incidents when contacted late Wednesday.
Iraqi police said two US soldiers were wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade
attack Wednesday morning in the city. The Americans returned fire, wounding
one attacker who fled the area, said police Lieutenant Haytham Mohammad
Jamal, who helped search for the suspect.

Mahmoud Shaker Mohammad, 36, a shopkeeper in the area, said the attackers
fled on a motorcycle at about 9:00 am (0600 GMT).

Just over six hours later, eight mortar rounds landed at an American
position near the University of Mosul, wounding one US soldier and damaging
a Humvee vehicle, said Mazen Khalil Jassem of the Facilities Protection
Service (FPS), which guards government buildings and facilities.

Musaab Mohammad Sobhi, a witness, said he saw two men get out of a car and
fire the mortars.

Nabil Siruan, a Kurdish militiaman helping to protect the area, said one US
soldier was wounded and a Humvee damaged.
Four Mosul university students were shot Wednesday during a second
consecutive day of demonstrations in support of Saddam Hussein, police said.
Shots rang out as the protesters approached an FPS post, an officer said.
On Tuesday a policeman was killed and another seriously wounded by drive-by
gunmen after a demonstration by about 1,000 university students, police

The US military announced on Sunday that Saddam Hussein had been captured
the previous night hiding in a hole near Tikrit, south of here.

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