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Prosecuting Alleged War Crimes And Human Rights Abuses In Iraq - 2003-04-10


When the war in Iraq ends, and if stability is brought to the country, a war crimes tribunal may be set up to look at the abuses of Saddam Hussein. In recent times, such tribunals have been established for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and one is currently operating in Sierra Leone.

One tribunal expert who’s following developments is Professor William Schabas, director of the Center for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Professor Schabas is currently a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone. From Freetown, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the conditions needed for Iraq to have a war crimes tribunal.

He says Iraq “must have a level of stability in the country and you also have to have a judiciary in whom you have confidence to be able to render justice impartially and independently and in accordance with international standards.”

He says, “Iraq has been though a period of twenty years of political oligarchy and most of the people involved in the justice system would probably be felt to be tainted by that.” However, any “hand-picked successors would be politically suspect.”

Professor Schabas says with situations like this, international involvement may be needed. For example, in Sierra Leone, he says they have set up a court that has “both international and national judges.” He says it’s “always preferable” to hold the tribunals within the country, but the country must be stable for that to happen. That’s why the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were held elsewhere.

He says the trials are “in some ways symbolic” because only a handful of people are tried. Professor Schabas says the tribunals for Germany and Japan after World War Two helped lead to two of the world’s most peaceful nations. He says, “Ideally, what you have is a combination of some justice, some criminal trials, some efforts at truth and reconciliation, maybe some purges within the public service, and using a variety of these mechanisms to try and move toward something better and hopefully break with the past.”

Click the above links to download or listen to De Capua interview

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