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Iraqi Special Tribunal to Try Crimes Against Humanity

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council approved a statute [HRCR] establishing the Iraqi Special Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity on December 10, 2003. L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, signed the statute into law on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority. [NOTE: Due to the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the linked site is no longer be updated; it will remain available until June 30, 2006.]

The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council were replaced by the Iraqi Interim Government on June 28, 2004.  Following the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly election on January 30, 2005, the Iraqi Transitional Government was established on May 3, 2005.  On August 11, 2005, the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly adopted a new Statute of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which changed its name to "Higher Criminal Court" and brought its practices more into line with the rest of the Iraqi judicial system. 

The Iraqi Special Tribunal is designed to prosecute those accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Iraq between July 17, 1968, when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party seized power, and May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over. The court also has the authority to try several lesser crimes, including the squandering of public funds and attempts to manipulate the judiciary.

Arrests of people suspected of committing gross human rights violations in Iraq have been carried out since the start of occupation and have continued following the transfer of power on June 28, 2004.  The U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein on December 14, 2003.  The first court appearance of Saddam Hussein and 11 senior members of his government took place on July 1, 2004.  On February 28, 2005 the Tribunal announced that the chief investigative judge had referred five men, including Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, who was also former head of the Iraqi intelligence services, and Taha Yasin Ramadan, vice-president of the former regime, for trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

Saddam Hussein was charged with the premeditated murder, torture and forced expulsion and disappearance of the residents of Dujail, a Shia Muslim town, after rebels there made an attempt to assassinate him in 1982.  The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1988 massacre in the Kurdish town of Halabjam, the extermination of Shia Muslims after their 1991 revolt, and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait are among events which may give rise to further charges against Saddam Hussein.  The exhibits entered into evidence by the Prosecution in the Saddam Hussein trial are available here (each document is preceded by an English summary, but the documents themselves are in Arabic).

For more information on the Iraqi Special Tribunal, see the overview provided by the Human Rights First. For more information on Iraq, please see our hot topic The War on Iraq: Legal Issues, or our Iraq National Page.

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Written Jan 22, 2004. Updated May 18, 2007.



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