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Saddam Hussein’s Lawyer Discusses Case, Transfer of Custody and Rights Violations

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Iraq’s unelected Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will appear before an Iraqi judge to face charges, including genocide. We speak with Saddam Hussein’s lawyer Curtis Doebbler about the case. [includes rush transcript]

Iraq’s unelected Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said today that Saddam Hussein and up to 11 other former Baath Party officials will be transferred from U.S. to Iraqi legal custody. But US civilian and military officials have made clear that the former Iraqi president will not be physically handed over to Iraqis and will remain a prisoner guarded by US forces.

Speaking at his first press conference, Allawi said Saddam will appear before an Iraqi judge on Thursday in an initial hearing, at which he will face charges, including genocide, related to his 23 years of rule. However, he will remain in a US-run jail.

Saddam was captured by the US last December 13 and is being held at an undisclosed location, reportedly in or near Baghdad, and has been interrogated by the CIA and FBI. Saddam has not been seen in public since his capture, except on a video provided by the US military.

He has been visited a handful of times by the International Committee of the Red Cross. His lawyers charge that he has been physically abused by his US jailers and has had his human rights violated. Letters he has written to his family from prison have been heavily censored by US officials.

The tribunal that will try Saddam has a budget of some $75 million. The US justice department has been gathering evidence for a war crimes case against Saddam, while other international groups have been sifting through the mass graves where US officials say victims of his regime were buried. Ayad Allawi said today that he and other unelected Iraqi officials were still discussing whether to reinstate the death penalty.

  • Curtis Doebbler, attorney who is part of Saddam Hussein’s legal team. He is speaking to us from Uzbekistan where he is Visiting Professor of International Human Rights Law at the Tashkent State Institute of Law.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just been joined on the telephone by Saddam Hussein’s lawyer. Iraq’s unelected Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi said that Saddam Hussein and up to 11 other former Baath Party officials will be transferred from U.S. to Iraqi legal custody. But U.S. civilian and military officials have made clear the former Iraqi president will not be physically handed over to Iraqis, and will remain in a prison that is run by the U.S. Speaking at his first news conference, Allawi said Saddam will appear before an Iraqi judge Thursday, facing initial charges including genocide related to his 23 year rule. However, he will remain in a U.S. run jail. Saddam was captured by the U.S. last September 13th, is being held at an undisclosed location reportedly in or near Baghdad. He has been interrogated by the CIA and the FBI. He’s not been seen by the public since his capture, except on video, provided by the U.S. military, showing his mouth being opened and being physically inspected. He’s been visited a handful of times the International Red Cross. His lawyers charge he’s been physically abused by U.S. jailors, the letters he’s written to his family from prison have been heavily censored. The tribunal that will try Saddam has a budget of $75 million. The U.S. Justice department has been gathering evidence for war crimes against Saddam while other international groups have been sifting through the mass graves, in which U.S. Officials say victims of his regime were buried. Ayad Allawi said today, he and other unelected Iraqi officials are still discussing whether to reinstate the death penalty. Curtis Doebbler joins us now, attorney, part of Saddam Hussein’s legal team. Welcome to Democracy Now!

CURTIS DOEBBLER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, joining us from Uzbekistan, where he is Visiting International Human Rights law professor at the State Institute of Law. Can you lay out what will happen to Saddam Hussein right now? Do you know where he is being held?

CURTIS DOEBBLER: No. That’s one of the problems. We don’t know where he is being held, and as I’m sure that you have heard from the many public statements we have made, we believe his rights are already being seriously violated, not just in the future. So, if the Prime Minister has any credibility about what he is saying, that he wants to insure a fair trial, they have already started on the wrong foot, because even before they have custody of him, they have made statements that indicate that it will not be a fair trial, and they have, if you will, cooperated with the United States to insure that his rights are already being severely curtailed.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain right now what it means to say that they have handed over the control of Saddam Hussein to the Iraqis, but the U.S. still holds him?

CURTIS DOEBBLER: Well, it means different things to different people. To the United States, it means they believe that they are de jure putting him out of their jurisdiction. I don’t have any problem telling you that we are right now, at this very moment, in the process, filing a petition for habeas corpus before the United States Supreme Court that will ask them to insure that our client is not turned over to anybody, particularly to any entity that has stated already it will provide him an unfair trial, by stating that the trial will be with a court with faceless judges of which the president is not impartial. So, if you talk to the United States, they will tell you that it means that they are putting him out of the reach of their jurisdiction, at least de jure, but I think that is wrong in law, because what they are doing is really nothing more than adding to the violations of his human rights that are already being perpetrated.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how you will defend him? CURTIS DOEBBLER: Well, that’s hard to explain, because we don’t know what he’s charged with. That will depend very much on the charges. We don’t know what his views are since we have not had a chance to meet with him. It’s very hard for a lawyer to explain how they will defend a client that they have not had any chance to meet with and they do not know what the charges are that have been brought against him. I think that will be something that we will see in the future. Right now, we’re not really concentrating on defending him, because he’s not even been charged. We’re concentrating on just insuring that his basic rights are protected.

AMY GOODMAN: And evidence that he has been abused: what do you have? What do you know? We have ten seconds.

CURTIS DOEBBLER: Yes. Well, as you know, the capture card which was filled in by the when he was captured states that he was wounded. It was filled in a month or more after he was captured. It seems very odd that he was wounded in custody. Of course, that’s a serious concern of ours.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Curtis Doebbler, and thank our other guests as well.

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