In the news
In December 2003, Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq, was found hiding from US soldiers in an underground shaft. Now in court in a trial that began October 19, 2005, Saddam faces charges of crimes against humanity for the killings of 148 Shiites after an assassination attempt against him in the early 1980s.
The trial has not played out as planned. There have been several postponements owing to the deaths of defense attorneys, problems with the judges, and a lack of cooperation from Saddam and his seven co-defendants. On March 1, Saddam made his first admission that he ordered the killings of the Shiite men. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.
Why does it matter?
"The reason the trial is critically important from a communications perspective is because it shows the democratic process and the judicial process in action," says Michael Robinson, VP at Levick Strategic Communications. "It is important that as the Iraqi people explore new forms of communications, they [understand] what is going on in what is likely the most important thing they have ever seen."
Geopolitically, the Saddam trial plays a very small role; the violence and terrorism that is happening in Iraq would continue regardless of the trial itself. "Saddam has not given up this opportunity to use this trial to his advantage and position himself as a PR master," Robinson says. "But mostly people have just tuned it out and see it for the rant that it is."
1 Two of the lawyers for the defense team, Saadoun Janabi and Adil al-Zubeidi, were murdered less than a month after the opening of the trial. Thamer Hamoud al-Khuzaie, another defense lawyer, was wounded in attacks.
2 On January 10, Chief Judge Rizgar Amin resigned. His deputy judge, Sayeed al-Hamashi, took over as his permanent replacement. But Hamashi was charged with being a former member of Saddam's Baath party and was moved to another court. Raouf Abdel-Rahman took over as chief judge.
3 Human rights groups argued that he deserved a fair trial in the eyes of the Iraqi people and the rest of the world. On March 2, it was argued at the UN Security Council's meeting that the trial be moved from Iraq to a neutral country.
4"The Colorado Documents," which contain evidence against Saddam for the killings of 200,000 Kurds, are being held in an undisclosed Denver location.
5 Australia's chief wheat exporter is being investigated for accusations that it contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Saddam's regime under the guise of the UN's oil-for-food program.