Background Briefing

IV. Conclusion

At one point in its decision, the IHT trial chamber stated that “even if the judge is certain of what he heard or saw in terms of acts the defendants have been charged with, he cannot rule on the basis of his personal knowledge.”105 In fact, as this review has demonstrated, a great deal of the critical factual findings in the trial chamber decision were not based on the evidence before it and appear to derive from the judges’ personal views about what “every Iraqi knew.” The tragedy of the Dujail case was that it failed to establish a credible and reliable record of what “every Iraqi knew.” Instead, it has left a decision riddled with such basic legal errors and doubtful factual findings that it cannot withstand scrutiny. Both the trial and the decision reflect the wholly inadequate international legal expertise of the IHT judges and lawyers, and a climate of intense political pressure created by the Iraqi government—which made it clear in numerous ways that acquittal or any form of leniency was not an option.106

The IHT’s inability to try the Dujail case fairly and in accordance with the relevant international criminal legal standards calls into question its credibility as a judicial institution. There is a serious risk that all future trials will be marred by the same kinds of procedural and substantive flaws that this briefing paper and Judging Dujail document. Yet some of the most important cases remain to be concluded: the Anfal trial, concerning the Iraqi military campaign against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, will conclude shortly, and another trial, concerning the brutal repression of the 1991 uprising in the south, is scheduled to commence later this year.

105 HRW Translation of Trial Chamber Decision, p. 31.

106 See Human Rights Watch, Judging Dujail, pp. 37-43.