Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Devil's advocates 

Note: Welcome to all the new readers - please stick around and check out the rest of the blog, in particular the latest mega round-up of good - and much under-reported - news from Iraq.

With the recent speculation about the date of Saddam's trial, and following the first meeting between Saddam and one of his defense lawyers, I thought it worthwhile to republish the updated profile Hussein's legal eagles, which "Scotland on Sunday" describes as a "20-strong international legal team based in Jordan [with a] back-up from some 1,500 volunteer lawyers, mostly from Arab countries." As the paper's Ian Mathers continues,
"The legal campaign to save the former Iraqi dictator is being run by Saddam's wife and three daughters. They are funding the campaign using aid cash for the Iraqi people stolen by the dictator in the dying hours of his regime.

"His wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, lives in Qatar with her youngest daughter, Hala. Saddam's other daughters, Raghad and Rana, have been granted political asylum in Jordan. From Amman, Raghad pays the bills and takes the lead, holding regular planning meetings with the legal team... However, the devotion of Raghad and Rana to their father is surprising, since Saddam ordered the murder of both their husbands [in 1995]."
The assets of Hussein family members have been frozen after the liberation, but apparently not all; besides, "there has been a rush of Arab lawyers volunteering to help Saddam. Most are working for nothing, but they will gain kudos from a high-profile case which is very popular in the Arab world."

So just who exactly would volunteer to defend one of the most repulsive characters to walk the pages of recent history? Quite an interesting, and disparate group of people, by the looks of it; some probably doing it for money, others for publicity, still others because of their anti-American ideological convictions or a sense, particularly prevalent among the Arab members of the team, that Saddam is actually innocent, a sort of a Middle Eastern version of O J Simpson. Let's take a closer look at the devil's advocates:

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.

Ludot, in turn, is closely associated with another French member of the team, Jacques Verges, famous - or notorious - as defender of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and international terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Charmingly, he "is said to have been a friend of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader behind Cambodia's genocide." Verges has long legal history:
"In World War II, he earned a reputation as a war hero with General Charles de Gaulle's Free French resistance, but later he became a Communist.

"During the Algerian war of independence, he defended Algerians accused of terrorism against France. One of his clients was Djamila Bouhired, who was sentenced to death in 1957 for planting bombs in cafes in Algiers. He managed to have her sentenced commuted, and married her when she was released in 1962.

"Later, in the 1970s, he became the champion of extremists from both left and right, defending Palestinian violence against Israel and neo-Nazi bombers."
Verges also represented himself as defending Slobodan Milosevic, a claim angrily rejected by some of Slobo's fans, who resent Verges' past association with Muslim extremists. In addition to acting for Saddam, Verges is also representing Muhammad al-Jundi, the Syrian driver of the two kidnapped French journalists. Al-Jundi has been rescued from his captivity by the American troops in Fallujah in November, but he's still suing the US authorities because, as he claims, following his rescue he "was taken in handcuffs to a military base where he was beaten and kicked... thrice threatened with mock executions and tortured with electric shocks... [as well as] denied medicines and forced to sleep on a pile of plastic rice sacks." Al-Jundi now resides in Paris, "under French protection."

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." He is currently representing "43-year-old Mr [Jeremy] Bamber was handed a life sentence for the murders of his adoptive parents, sister and her twin six-year-olds in 1986."

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 colorful by comparison. A lecturer at the universities in Geneva and Hong Kong, Henzelin specializes 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. You can also read this extensive profile of him, where Doebbler comes out as an equal opportunity defender, offering his service to George W Bush, should the President ever face a war crimes tribunal.

Another American (by naturalization) member of the team is Clive Stafford Smith, an anti-death penalty activist, who over the last quarter of a century, successfully defended some 300 clients from execution. Most recently, Stafford Smith has been a beneficiary of a grant by Soros Justice Foundation to "organize a coalition to promote enforcement of constitutional and human rights in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (home of a U.S. military base and prison); to produce a best-practices manual for litigating the cases before military commissions; and to write about a selection of Guantanamo prisoners" (hat tip: Little Green Footballs). Having recently met with two Britons held at Guantanamo, Stafford Smith said of his experience, "I don't think I've ever been as depressed coming out of Death Row as I was leaving that place. It was terribly shocking."

Stafford Smith already had an opportunity to contribute to Saddam's defense:
"A 50-page brief prepared for the defense team by British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith argues that US law should prevail in any trial of Saddam and his 11 captive aides because the trial is effectively being taken at Washington's behest... The lawyer charged that the Iraq Special Tribunal set up by the US-led coalition last December amounted to 'victors' justice' creating 'inherent illegality and bias'."
Lastly, Saddam's defense team even gets a more glamorous 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.

So far, there seems to be one sad omission from the "S Team":
"Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said... 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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