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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A few reservations about the Hussein trial

To talk about justice in connection with the trial of Saddam Hussein may seem comical. It is as if Hitler had survived World War Two, and found himself facing the Nuremberg tribunal, the difference being that Hitler was a far more sympathetic figure. One can not imagine a figure more clearly, damnably guilty, more perfectly the embodiment of pure evil than this absurd little man sitting in a Baghdad courtroom. Yet I find myself with misgivings over what I am seeing, and even more misgivings about the fact that nobody else seems to be having any misgivings at all.

Looking just in the moment, we find ourselves with nothing to worry about. The facts are not in serious dispute, only the spin is. But let's look ahead a little, this time, and think about the system that is about to be validated by what is likely to be felt as a moment of long awaited relief - the conviction and likely execution of Hussein. There is no jury in the new Iraqi judicial system, I'm told. All is decided by the decree of a single man - the judge - in this case, somebody who, having served prison time under the Hussein regime, is unlikely to prove impartial. There probably is little damage to be done to the level of justice that Hussein can personally expect from the system, because there is so little justice that the man can still be said to be owed, but one can not necessarily say the same of the next defendent to come along in a system that seems designed to be abused.

Embedding the jury trial requirement into the US Constitution early in the process of amending it was not just an arbitrary cultural choice. Having the right to be tried by "a jury of one's peers", no matter how horrendous the charges against one, means that the government can't simply trump up a charge, grab one off the street, hold a show trial and then kill one; or drop one into a dungeon somewhere. It is a necessary check on the ability of a capricious government to abuse its discretion as it tries to disguise tyranny as law enforcement. One would think that if any nation on earth would have an appreciation of the dangers of not hemming in the abuse of governmental power, right now, it would be Iraq.

Hussein might not deserve any better than he is about to get, but the Iraqi people do. Righteous anger should never become a pretext for pushing through an unrighteous law.