Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saddam Trial Timing

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the start of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Rather than being tried on some of the more major alleged crimes, Saddam and seven others, including his former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, will face charges over the murder of 143 people from the town of Dujail in 1982 after an assassination attempt there against Saddam.

What is special about the Dujail murders is that Saddam is shown on video interrogating people on the side of the road after the gunmen shot at his car, and ordering the capture and interrogation of several people. Unlike other more serious alleged crimes, such as the gassing of Kurds in Halabja in 1988, this video footage as well as a decree ordering the execution of 148 Dujail residents shows direct involvement from Saddam. It is for this reason that this case was selected to be tried first.

The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote a very good article on the Saddam trial here, while the BBC published a photo gallery from the Dujail video footage.

The timing of Saddam's trial is interesting, and I suspect no accident. Surely when they scheduled the trial, they realized that Iraqis would be voting in the constitution referendum on Saturday, and the official results would be coming out in the latter part of this week. It seems as if the authorities figured Saddam's trial would present a distraction for Iraqis from the constitutional referendum and the upcoming election.