Lawyers Boycott Saddam Case
One day after the trial began, a defense lawyer was abducted from his office by 10 masked gunmen and his body was found the next day. A second defense lawyer was shot dead and another wounded in an ambush in Baghdad last Tuesday.
Government spokesman Laith Kubba said defense lawyers have twice turned down invitations to move to the Green Zone, where they could be protected by U.S. and other international troops. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani renewed that invitation last week.
There is debate over whether Saddam's trial can be held fairly in Iraq during the insurgency.
Michael Newton, a former State Department war crimes lawyer, said moving the trial would be "an abdication to those who want to substitute anarchy instead of the rule of law."
"The defense lawyers were offered protection and refused," Newton, a professor of law at Vanderbilt University, said. "So they can't have it both ways: They can't decline the protection they were offered and then say that the circumstances are unsafe."
But Laura Dickinson, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, believes the trial ought to be moved. She suggested the United Arab Emirates as a possible venue because judges in Saddam's trial were trained there.
Elise Groulx, president of the International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, also said the violence is a troubling factor.
"Is Baghdad a war zone? That is a question that the judges and Iraqi government must answer," Groulx said.
Moving the trial to another country — assuming one could be found to accept it — would require Iraq's parliament to amend the law that established the court.
Saddam's lawyers have called for creation of a special international court, but that would require action by the U.N. Security Council, where the United States wields a veto.
John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said abandoning the Iraqi High Tribunal would undermine Iraq's government.
"They want to conduct this trial under their own national authorities, and I think the people who have undertaken these terrorist assassinations obviously are trying to undercut the Iraqi judicial institutions," Bolton told AP.
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