Ed Adams at the ABA Journal e-mailed me an interesting story from the May issue about conversations behind the scenes between the judges on the Iraqi High Tribunal and the American legal advisers to the court. “Contrary to the view held by many in the international community that the proceedings were merely a show trial,” Adams notes, “the Iraqi judges seriously debated a wide range of legal issues, according to the American advisers to the court:”
During training sessions for the judges in London, the judges questioned even the legality of their own tribunal.
They pressed their instructors about how history would judge their efforts, including asking what the reaction would be if they acquitted one or more defendants. (One of the eight defendants in Saddam’s trial was eventually acquitted.)
And far from being a rubber stamp for occupying forces, the Iraqi judges rejected a number of requests from their American legal advisers.
The article also scrutinizes Ramsey Clark and the clown anti-war lawyers who exploited the case:
The professional conduct of a platoon of private foreign lawyers hired by the major defendants—including Saddam defense counsel and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark—was particularly vexing to the American advisers. Taking their cue from the trials of U.S. radicals in the late 1960s and early ’70s, those lawyers focused more on political arguments and theatrics than the facts of the case, the American advisers contend.
None of the private lawyers showed up in court more than a handful of times, leaving most of the heavy lifting to public defenders appointed by the court as standby counsel. Besides staging boycotts of the proceedings, some private counsel also disrupted the trial by intimidating lawyers for other defendants, the American advisers say.
One of the private lawyers’ favorite tactics was the threat of “serious repercussions” for counsel who didn’t stand to acknowledge Saddam as president when he entered the courtroom, Blinderman remembers.
The court put a stop to that by having the defendants enter the courtroom first and take their seats before the lawyers came in…
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