As headlines for Saddam Hussein’s trial continue to grace the front pages of American newspapers, the image of an Iraqi circus keeps appearing in my mind. All that is missing is a juggler and an elephant.The thought of one of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants being dragged out kicking and screaming didn’t help. It made me wonder how much control the new judge had over his courtroom. Hussein’s latest trick is his hunger strike in protest of the way he is being treated.
After taking approximately a month off, the trial is evidently as stressful as ever.
“War crimes trials are always messy, but they must meet international standards,” Miranda Sissons, a senior associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice, told The New York Times on Jan. 29.
This “messy” trial, one of several, is expected to last through May, The New York Times reported.
Although I understand the depth of information needed in this trial, the sensitive information being shared and Hussein’s defensiveness, I can’t help but wonder about the antics that occurred in the Iraqi courtroom that weekend (and where the ring master was).
“To American eyes, the trial seems to lack decorum,” said Mike Dodson, professor of political science. “It’s sort of farcical. Who’s in charge?”
With the yelling match, the defense attorneys being asked to leave and the childlike tricks they displayed, I can only imagine how out of control everything was. No wonder there have been changes in judges and defense attorneys. According to a report on National Public Radio, it is because of these changes that chaos ensued.
“To me, the trial illustrates how illusory it is to be talking already as though Iraq is well down the road to a democracy inspired by U.S. intervention,” Dodson said. “Iraq has an extremely weak judiciary and no tradition of the rule of law. How likely is it that such a tradition would suddenly be established in a trial of the man who ran the country for 25 years and still has supporters there?”
It looks as though drawing out the trials wouldn’t help anyone but Hussein, which may be his intent.
According to a report on NPR, the trial resumed days later without Hussein present and “proceeded in a fairly orderly fashion.”
Order or not, it seems many people are questioning the fairness of the trial. Hussein claims the judge is biased against him, and many Americans see the trial as in Hussein’s favor, according to npr.org.
“The trial might have been more orderly and made much more sense had Saddam been brought before an international tribunal – as have other leaders with similar records of atrocities,” Dodson said.
Human rights observers are also questioning the trial’s credibility, according to The New York Times on Wednesday.
Considering current conditions, it would be more productive to hold the trial on more neutral ground. And although neutral ground might be hard to come by, the trial might be a little speedier with less tolerance for disorder.
“That the trial has degenerated into political theater is hardly surprising, if you ask me,” Dodson said.
Summer Kenny is a senior ballet major from Olathe, Kan.