NY Times Frets Over Fairness of Saddam Trial, But Expert Calls It 'Model of Due Process'

We should have seen this one coming. The New York Times doesn't think the Saddam trial was fair enough and wants his death penalty delayed.

With the same solicitude it reserves for politically-correct domestic criminals, the Times editorial of this morning opines that Saddam's trial "fell somewhere short" of "an exemplary exercise in the rule of law." In the Times' view, the trial represented neither "full justice" nor "full fairness."

And as an opponent of the death penalty even for mass murderers, the Times predictably advises the appeals court to "defer the carrying out of any death penalty long enough to allow the completion of a second trial."

Contrast the Times' hand-wringing with the comments from a true expert not just on international criminal law in general, but on the Saddam trial in particular. Case Western law professor Michael Scharf has devoted himself to following the trial, even writing a book about it. Here are some of the observations Prof. Scharf offered on CNN yesterday:

  • "[Although] it looked like another day of chaos in the courtroom, actually it was a very efficient and orderly day. The presiding judge did a very good job of choreographing the entire event today. They did bring in saddam. They gave him his chance to vent once again. And this is televised as the proceedings have been all along. It's the judge's way of showing they're giving absolute fairness bending over backwards to give Saddam his moment."
  • "If Iraq stays together as a unified country, people will look back and say that this trial, which was dedicated to due process, which allowed Saddam to have his day in court, and which followed the international rules, was one of the elements along with the creation of the constitution and the election of the democratically-elected national assembly that led to the success of this country."
  • "This trial has been the first televised trial in the history of Iraq, actually, the history of all of the Middle East. Many people in Iraq have never seen the inside of a courtroom. Unlike the courts under Saddam Hussein, this court was governed by the rule of law. They did give Saddam a lot of leeway that he was allowed to act disruptively and react to the functions in the courtroom. But that was a function of due process. So this trial will be a model for due process in the other courts of Iraq, and if Iraq is able to survive this period of violence, I think that this episode will be seen as one of the keys to bringing the rule of law back to this troubled country."
  • "I think it's very unlikely that this verdict will be overturned. . . Ultimately this case was not a factual case. The facts were not in dispute . . . Even Saddam Hussein admitted the basic facts."

Prof. Scharf is a scholar, not a partisan. I don't know about you, but I'm going with his analysis, not the carping of an old-media newspaper looking to undercut this historic achievement.

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY. Beginning later this week he will be reporting for MRC from Baghdad and Fallujah. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.