VIII. Conclusion

This report has documented serious procedural flaws in the IHT’s conduct of the Dujail trial. These included:

  • government actions that undermined the independence and perceived impartiality of the court;
  • a failure to ensure adequately detailed notice of the charges against the defendants;
  • numerous shortcomings in the timely disclosure of incriminating evidence, exculpatory evidence and important court documents;
  • violations of the defendants’ basic fair trial right to confront witnesses against them; and
  • lapses of judicial demeanor that undermined the apparent impartiality of the presiding judge.

The court’s conduct, as documented in this report, reflects a basic lack of understanding of fundamental fair trial principles, and how to uphold them in the conduct of a relatively complex trial. The result is a trial that did not meet key fair trial standards. Under such circumstances, the soundness of the verdict is questionable. In addition, the imposition of the death penalty—an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment—in the wake of an unfair trial is indefensible.

Apart from the conduct of the trial itself, this report has shown that the IHT as an institution has struggled to competently perform administrative functions that are essential to a fair and effective trial. The tribunal lacks a functioning outreach program, a competent witness protection program, and a Defense Office that could effectively ensure a vigorous defense for the accused. Some of these administrative failings have been exacerbated by the sharp deterioration in the security environment from 2004, but poor security conditions do not adequately explain the deficiencies in the functioning of the court. Rather, the facts gathered by Human Rights Watch point to a fundamental lack of capacity on the part of administrators, judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers. Some of the failings of the court highlighted in this report, such as the complete absence of an outreach and communications strategy, are now much harder to correct due to the security situation, but the court failed to take the opportunity to develop a program when security conditions were more permissive.

The concerns documented in this report point to the need for significant reforms in the structure and functioning of the IHT if it is to have a real chance of conducting subsequent trials that are fair and credible. The current design of the IHT is not conducive to effective international assistance in the conduct of the trial. The court’s structure needs to be revised to ensure international participation at all levels, and the creation of an effective and independent court administration to oversee the integrity of the institution as a whole. In the absence of these reforms, the credibility of the IHT as an independent, fair, and effective judicial institution is fundamentally doubtful.