Ramsey Clark: Impossible to prepare a defense for Hussein
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Saddam Hussein's trial for crimes against humanity is coming to a
close. In August the former Iraqi leader faces a separate genocide
trail. One of his attorneys, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey
Clark, says Hussein has no more chance of getting a fair trial in
August than he did in the current trial in Baghdad.
Attorney Ramsey Clark says it's impossible in Iraq to prepare a
defense for Saddam Hussein.
On Tuesday, Clark discussed with CNN's Wolf Blitzer the charges
against Hussein, the former dictator's political aspirations, and the
deaths of three lawyers working on his defense.
BLITZER: There's talk that Saddam Hussein is thinking of making a
political comeback, talking to some of his other attorneys. Is that at
all realistic in his mind?
CLARK: I don't think he has any thoughts of a political comeback. I've
never heard him say anything about it or seen any indication of it.
The thing that he always says and is always clear is that he's torn
apart by what he sees happening to his country, to the people of Iraq.
And the thing he says above all is Iraqis should never kill Iraqis.
You've got to join together.
BLITZER: So the Saddam loyalists, the insurgents who say they're loyal
to Saddam Hussein, who are involved in a lot of these attacks, he
doesn't want them to do that? He wants them to lay down their arms?
CLARK: He doesn't want any Iraqis killing Iraqis. He wants the Iraqi
people to be unified. He thinks the worst thing that can happen is for
them to kill each other. And he abhors talk about sectarianism.
BLITZER: Is he fatalistic in the sense that he expects to be executed?
CLARK: He's certainly fatalistic in the sense that it's a long-term
attitude, that what will be will be, and his enemies have him in their
power and they intend to kill him. That's what he believes, I think.
BLITZER: The Dujail phase of the charges against him now wrapping up,
coming to an end. ... One of his other attorneys, Khalil al-Dulaimi,
is quoted in The New York Times as saying this: "Those executed at
Dujail deserved to die according to Iraqi law. They were part of an
illegal organization plotting to kill a president, and they killed
some of his bodyguards. They were threatening the stability of the
country." Do you support that line of defense that Mr. Al-Dulaimi made?
CLARK: That's translated from Arabic. I think what he was saying is
that there were 148 people there sentenced to death more than two
years after the assassination attempt. And it wasn't just one
assassination attempt. Remember, [Hussein's former deputy] Tariq Aziz
said they tried to assassinate him. There were a string of them.
They were all by the Dawa Party. The Dawa Party was an Iranian party.
It was centered in Tehran. The president -- Saddam Hussein testified
at the trial that the first announcement of the Dujail assassination
attempt on him came from Tehran.
BLITZER: So did the people who were killed at Dujail deserve to die?
CLARK: Well, I don't think anybody deserves to die. I think what he
was saying is that they were sentenced to death under Iraqi law, and
it was for treason against your country in time of war, including an
attempt to assassinate the president by the Dawa Party. ... They'd
been sentenced after two years of investigation, based on confessions,
to death. And it was a mandatory law. We used to have in the United
States mandatory law. If you're convicted of treason, death.
So if you follow the law -- I'm opposed to the death penalty in every
case, always have been, the only attorney general in history to oppose
the death penalty -- so I can't say I think they should have been
executed. But I can say that it's clear that's what the law was.
BLITZER: That's what the defense is. One of your other colleagues,
Khamis al-Obeidi, who was murdered in Iraq only within the past few
days, back in November, he said: We think that it's impossible to hold
a trial in Baghdad in these security conditions and that the court
should be transferred to a location outside Iraq.
You're about to go back to Iraq in the coming days. Are you convinced
that there can be security for you and your colleagues to have a trial
involving Saddam Hussein and his other co-defendants?
CLARK: Well, obviously, three have been murdered now, or assassinated,
three lawyers, all Iraqis. I've believed from the beginning and said
from the beginning, that the people who need protection are the Iraqi
lawyers and their families and their investigators. We never were able
to investigate the case. We can't send an investigator out without
protection. He wouldn't get past the door.
And we haven't been able to protect our witnesses. We don't have any
ability to protect them and to relocate them where they can survive
with their families. So this small Dujail trial, which is simply to
satisfy the Dawa Party -- the prime minister is a member of the Dawa
Party, the Iranian Shia party -- is not a real case.
BLITZER: Can there be a fair trial in these current security conditions?
CLARK: No. I was the one selected by all the defense counsel to
present the security issue to the tribunal. And I fought with all my
ability to get security. And we all knew from the beginning there's
only one source for that security and that's the United States
government, because at least all of these people who've been
assassinated, these three, there have been allegations that it was the
Iraqi government that did it, the Interior Ministry.
BLITZER: How scared are you, now that you're about to go back to Baghdad?
CLARK: Well, I feel pretty safe. I'm an American. I can get in and
out. I don't live there. My family's not there. I don't have to worry
about my family. And I think my chances are very good. The ones I
always worry about, and you have to worry about, are the Iraqi
lawyers. How are they going to survive?
BLITZER: And is there one specific piece of hope that you have for
those Iraqi lawyers? What are you appealing to the U.S. government for?
CLARK: Well, since Khamis was murdered, we've been living together. We
live in a little prison thing there within the wall during trial. He
goes home when we're not in trial to stay with his family. He's got
six children, his youngest child not 3 years old yet. Of course,
they've got no father now.
But I feel safe there. I don't think they are safe there. I don't
think they'll be safe there until the United States agrees to relocate
their families, provide them with a means of surviving where they're
relocated until they can do it on their own, protect their husbands
while they're engaged there, provide them with investigators who are
safe themselves to go to Dujail and to go to the Anfal territories in
Kurdistan and investigate.
BLITZER: I want to go through that Anfal campaign, which is the next
trial that's supposed to start in August. The organization Human
Rights Watch, which you're familiar with, in 1993 they had their
report on the Anfal campaign.
They said Saddam Hussein's government was involved in mass executions
and disappearances; 50,000 people, 200,000 people in the Kurdish
areas. There was widespread use of chemical weapons, destruction of
2,000 villages, arbitrary jailing of tens of thousands of women,
children and elderly, forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of
Kurdish villagers. That according to Human Rights Watch.
And they concluded this: "While it would be unrealistic to expect
President Saddam Hussein to put himself and his closest aides and
relatives on trial, a successor government in Baghdad should not shirk
from its responsibility to carry out a thoroughgoing investigation of
these enormous crimes and prosecute all those involved to the full
extent of the law." That's Human Rights Watch. ... What do you make of it?
CLARK: I think they're wrong and, I think in hindsight they would
realize they're wrong, that you can't have a fair trial there because
security doesn't permit it. And that's what we insisted upon in
November of '05. You can't have a fair trial when your lawyers are
getting killed, when you can't investigate your case, and you can't go
forward. And that's very obvious.
If you're going to have a fair trial, you've got to have safety for
everybody involved. And you don't have that. And we shouldn't presume
innocence -- the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, the Central
Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and the U.S. Marine Corps have all said
that Iraq did not have gasses that were used in Anfal or in Halabja.
And they've said that in The New York Times and everywhere else. So
we'd better wait and assume innocence.
I think the presumption of innocence is not a technical rule of
evidence; it's a way of life. You'd better keep your mind open. You'd
better not be prejudiced if you want to survive in this life because
you're creating prejudice and hatred by threats of execution and by
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