Sunday, July 04, 2004

The S Team 

Saddam's defence team gets one more celebrity member:

"A daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has joined a 20-member defense panel for former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the team's chief Mohammad Rashdan announced yesterday.

" 'Aysha Qaddafi, who holds a doctorate in law, has called us offering to join the team, and we welcomed that. She is now member of the defense panel for the Iraqi president,' Rashdan [said]."
The Calcutta "Telegraph" is not very kind to Miss Qaddafi:

"Aisha, in her mid-20s, has been variously described as a 'law graduate' and a 'law professor'. Other than her pin-up good looks and blonde locks, not much is known about the daughter of the leader of Libya."
Regardless of her actual qualifications, judging by the photo at least she will add the newsworthy glamour to the team. Which might be exactly the plan for our PR-conscious times.

The presumption of innocence, fair trial and the right to legal defence are the fundamentals of any decent legal system. Saddam, just like anyone else deserves to be defended by professionals in a court of law. However, the rush of legal experts to defend him would suggest more than just widespread concern over fairness - in addition, or indeed instead, there seems to be the belief that Saddam is actually innocent, or if not technically innocent then at least he is a victim of the American power structure. In other words, Saddam is well on his way to becoming the O J of the Arab world.

One thing's for sure - since over 600 Arab lawyers have originally signed on to represent Saddam, the 20-strong defence team will be the cream of the crop. So, aside from Jordanian legal eagles, who else in on the S Team?

Tom Hughes, a solicitor from Tiverton, in Devon, England, is a surprise entry. The "Guardian" comments:

"The married father-of-three was approached... to join the team 'to review principles of international justice surrounding the forthcoming trial'. Information on Mr Hughes from the Law Society shows not a specialist in international law but a typical country solicitor: areas of expertise include crime (including motor offences); family law; general litigation; debt and money advice; employment; and neighbour disputes."
Doesn't sound like much of an international law background, but the "neighbour disputes" experience might come in handy when defending Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. The missing link is Hughes' one year stint at a law firm in France, where he met the French member of the S team, Emmanuel Ludot.

Of Emmanuel Ludot little is known outside his own country, except a for his penchant for controversial cases. In the past he represented a cancer sufferer suing over the Chernobyl disaster. In case you were wondering the suit wasn't against the Soviet Union but the French government for allowing people to consume food possibly contaminated by the radioactive fallout over France. According to one recent report, "Mr Ludot... called the Iraqi penal code 'Stone Age legislation' and said it was ill-suited to Saddam's case." One would have thought it was very well suited.

Another team member is British-based Giovanni di Stefano, multi-millionaire and former controversial director of Dundee football club. And a lawyer, apparently. One report says that "Mr di Stefano, who once reportedly said he would have been prepared to represent Adolf Hitler, lists road rage killer Kenneth Noye among his past clients." Di Stefano has in the past rubbed shoulders with some interesting characters. He had this to say about the late Serbian ethnic cleansing mass murderer Arkan: "He loved me very much as a human being. And I liked him as a person. He had good morals. He was a good person. And I'm not ashamed of saying it." He also claims to have met Osama bin Laden in Baghdad in 1998 (!): "He had a handshake like a woman. He had a soft voice. He spoke like a priest." Di Giovanni's legal qualifications have been queried by a Court of Appeals judge and he has been previously convicted of fraud.

Swiss barrister and academic Marc Henzelin seems a lot less colourful by comparison. A lecturer at the universities in Geneva and Hong Kong, Henzelin specialises in international criminal law. In the past he has represented Iraqi-based Iranian mudjahedin, Argentinian arms dealers, and Saddam's nephews and nieces whose Swiss bank accounts were frozen by the authorities.

Then there is American academic (Professor of Human Rights Law at American University in Cairo) and lawyer Curtis Doebbler. Doebbler is a former legal advisor to the Palestinian Authority, and has been representing suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay (or as this note delightfully puts it, he "served as an advisor to the Taliban on the laws of war"). As Doebbler says himself:

"I am a pacifist in so far as I will not use force to achieve political ends and in principle I reject the use of force by both governmental and non-governmental actors. At the same time, I can understand the frustrations of those individuals who turn to the use of force when they or others with whom they identify are being oppressed and have no adequate means of legal recourse...

"I ardently oppose American and more broadly western neo-imperialism which is being imposed through the exploitation of the majority of the people of the world and the economic and military dominance of the United States. I believe that all people have a right and a duty to take all necessary measures to end the United States' inhumane dominance of the lives of billions of people."
In other words, one of those violent pacifists.

And speaking of American connections, there is one sad omission from the S Team:

"Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said Dec. 19 that he would represent Saddam, but added it was unlikely an international court would let a foreigner who didn't speak Arabic and wasn't trained in the Arabic legal tradition to appear in an Iraqi court."
Ramsey Clark - because no cause is too disgusting.

Looks like it's going to be an interesting trial.


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