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Saddam to face war crimes tribunal
( 2003-12-15 09:25) (Agencies)

Saddam Hussein will get a fair trial before a war crimes tribunal that was approved just last week, members of the Iraqi Governing Council said Sunday.

The court sessions will be "open to the public, with the press, so that people in Iraq can see the nature of crimes committed with Saddam at the helm," said Dara Noor Alzin.

Saddam is accused of crimes against humanity during his three-decade reign of terror, including using chemical weapons to kill thousands of Kurds.

The council members spoke after meeting with Saddam and described him as "tired and haggard, unrepentant, even defiant."

Asked about thousands killed and dumped in mass graves, Saddam dismissed his victims saying, "They were thieves," said one council member.

"He was not apologetic. He was sarcastic and making a mockery of Iraqi people," said one member of the council.

But council members promised Saddam would have "a just and fair trial" and said he will even have the right of appeal.

"We found him obviously tired and haggard, unrepentant, even defiant, justifying crimes saying he was a just but firm ruler, our answer was that he was unjust ruler responsible for death of thousands of people," said Adnan Pachachi, a member of the council.

Council members said if Saddam cannot afford an attorney to represent him, one will be provided for him, and added that the court will not have the final say and that Saddam's attorneys can file an appeal.

"The former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions," U.S. President Bush said in a short address from the White House.

Citing estimates of the death toll under Saddam's Baath Party rule, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there were "about 300,00 to a million reasons why" Iraq should try the ousted leader.

Saddam is currently in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location. U.S. officials have not said if they have decided where the former dictator would stand trial.

As far back as 1991, the U.S. Congress has been calling for Saddam to be tried before a United Nations war crimes tribunal.

When Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, was asked Sunday what should happen to Saddam he said that while it is too early to say for sure, "I do think it would be good if the people of Iraq, the governance in Iraq, could perform the act of bringing Saddam Hussein to justice, having a trial for the crimes that he committed while he was the leader of Iraq."

The Iraqi tribunal will address genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed from July 14, 1968 -- when Saddam's Baath Party came to power -- until May 1, 2003 -- when US President Bush declared major hostilities over, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, current president of the interim government, told The Associated Press. 

Judges and lawyers involved in the prosecution will be vetted by a select committee and trained by an international committee of lawyers, council members said when announcing the tribunal.

The tribunal is expected to consult war crimes courts at The Hague, Netherlands, and in Rwanda.

Amnesty International wants Saddam to have POW status and visits from the international Red Cross, according to AP.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday the Iraqis will determine his fate and how the former ruler is treated.

Some Iraqis have already decided Saddam's ultimate fate.

"I believe he will be sentenced to hundreds of death sentences at a fair trial because he's responsible for all the massacres and crimes in Iraq, Amar al-Hakim, a leader of the powerful Shi'ite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told Reuters.

No judges or administrators have yet been appointed to the tribunal. And the transitional government set to assume sovereignty by July 1, will decide whether the tribunal will have the power to impose death sentences.

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