Ramsey Clark: Impossible to prepare a defense for Hussein
Attorney Ramsey Clark says it's impossible in Iraq to prepare a defense for Saddam Hussein.
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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.
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 unfair trials.
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