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The guilty verdict in the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven other defendants for crimes against humanity against inhabitants of the Iraqi town of Dujail is undermined by serious flaws in the proceedings, according to research undertaken by Human Rights Watch over the past year.

Human Rights Watch has campaigned for more than a decade to bring to justice those responsible for grave human rights violations in Iraq. However, justice for crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity requires a fair trial that meets international standards, and that will produce a credible and reliable record of these terrible crimes.

After 12 months’ observation of the Dujail trial, and dozens of interviews with key actors on all sides, Human Rights Watch has documented serious procedural and substantive flaws in the trial which undermine the soundness of the verdict. In addition, Human Rights Watch’s research shows that the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) is an institution that is struggling to maintain its independence under intense political pressure, and that has not been able to perform basic administrative tasks necessary to conduct a fair and effective trial. The credibility of the institution’s capacity to conduct fair, effective and independent trials is doubtful.

Human Rights Watch opposes the imposition of death penalty as inherently cruel and inhumane punishment. The imposition of the death penalty after proceedings which failed to meet key fair trial standards is unsustainable. Human Rights Watch urges the Appeals Chamber of the IHT to carefully review the fairness of the trial and the procedure applied by the trial chamber.

Human Rights Watch awaits the written reasons for the verdict, which have not yet been made available by the IHT. Human Rights Watch will review the judgment and publish an analysis of the legal reasoning and fact-finding of the court, based on applicable international criminal law and human rights law.

On November 20, Human Rights Watch will be releasing a lengthy report documenting the problems with the Dujail trial and the IHT and containing recommendations for reform.

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