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News of Amin's Death Brings Relief, Sadness - 2003-08-16

The death of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has brought relief to many who suffered under his brutal regime, but also sadness that he was never brought to trial to face human rights abuse charges.

In a coma for nearly a month and suffering from kidney failure, Idi Amin died Saturday in Jeddah's King Faisal Hospital.

In 1971, Mr. Amin seized power in a coup. What followed was eight years of brutal rule.

His reign came to an end in 1979, after Tanzanian troops invaded Kampala and Mr. Amin fled. Over the past 24 years, he lived first in Libya, then Iraq and most recently in Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups claim he was responsible for ordering the torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of his opponents in bloody purges in the 1970s.

London-based Amnesty International says his death after more than two decades of exile underlines the need for a system that could bring tyrants to justice.

In a statement, Amnesty spokesman George Ngwa says, "Mr. Amin's death is a sad comment on the international community's inability to hold leaders accountable for gross human rights abuses."

Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown agrees. She was one of tens of thousands of ethnic Asians the dictator expelled in 1972, with most of them starting a new life in Britain.

"I would have like to have seen this man go on trial," she said. "Not for what he did to us, because we made good, I think; and in a sense, Ugandan Asians have hogged the story. This is a story about the hundreds of thousands of black people who died. And, I am sure they will feel a sense of enormous relief that he is no more."

The United Nations has now set up the International Criminal Court to deal with cases of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But even Idi Amin was safe from that court, since it is not able to try any crimes that occurred before last year.