October 03, 2006

Saddam on Trial: Symposium at Case Western Reserve University School of Law examines what has been learned from tribunal

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S., Samir Sumaidaie, confirmed as featured speaker

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His Excellency Samir Sumaidaie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, will be the featured keynote speaker at a Case Western Reserve University School of Law symposium, "Lessons from the Saddam Trial," on Friday, Oct. 6. Proceedings begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Moot Courtroom (A59) at the law school, 11075 East Boulevard. The daylong symposium is being sponsored by the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center.

One week before the court in the first Saddam trial reconvenes on Oct. 16 for a judges' review of the process, the war crimes research symposium will examine the lessons learned from the trial. A verdict had been expected on that day, but was postponed because the judges are considering the possibility of recalling some witnesses.

Billed by the international media as the "real trial of the century," the televised proceedings of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's war crimes trial before the Iraqi High Tribunal were punctuated by gripping testimony of atrocities, controversial judicial rulings, assassinations of defense counsel, resignation of judges, hunger strikes, allegations of mistreatment by the defendants, and even underwear appearances.

Sumaidaie, a supporter of the United States, became Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. in May 2006 after previously serving as Iraq's permanent representative to the United Nations, and prior to that, he was appointed Baghdad's interior minister in April 2004. Following the invasion of Iraq Sumaidaie was appointed a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. He is also a Sunni Muslim.

The symposium is designed to pose thought-provoking questions to several experts who were involved in the Saddam trial, as well as distinguished international law scholars and members of national and international media. For example:

  • Was it a mistake to try Saddam in Baghdad before a panel of Iraqi judges?
  • Was the Iraqi High Tribunal a legitimate judicial institution?
  • Were the proceedings fundamentally fair?
  • Did the judges react properly to the defendant's attempts to derail the proceedings?
  • Was the media coverage of the trial comprehensive and accurate?
  • What are the lessons for future war crimes trials?

In addition to organizing the symposium, law school faculty have been involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein, particularly Michael Scharf, professor of law and director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center. Faculty and students have provided training and legal research assistance to the Tribunal's judges and have hosted the award-winning "Grotian Moment: Saddam Hussein Trial Website" as a venue for expert discussion of trial developments.

"While we approached the project with some ambivalence, in light of the historic importance of the Saddam trial, we decided it would be better to help improve the tribunal than to sit on the sidelines hurling criticisms," Scharf said.

A highlight of the symposium will be a one-hour debate about whether Saddam Hussein has received a fair trial, featuring Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch; Mike Newton, former deputy ambassador-at-large for War Crimes issues at the U.S. Department of State; Kevin Jon Heller, professor of law, University of Auckland, New Zealand; and Scharf, whose book, "Saddam on Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal (Carolina Academic Press)," is the first book about the Saddam Hussein trial now in print. Co-authored by Gregory McNeal, assistant director of the law school's Institute for Global Security Law and Policy, the book contains more than 100 essays by Scharf and other leading authorities in the field addressing the many questions raised by this historic trial. The debate will be moderated by Gary Simson, dean and Joseph C. Hostetler-Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law.

Case Western Reserve University School of Law has been the only law school to provide research for the prosecution in every international war crimes tribunal in the last few years. In addition to the Iraqi High Tribunal, others include the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Just last month, the law school entered into an agreement with the New Cambodia Tribunal to provide research assistance in cases against Khmer Rouge officials responsible for the genocide of the 1970s. Last year, Scharf and the school's War Crimes Research program were nominated by the prosecutor of the Sierra Leone Tribunal for the Nobel Peace Prize for the role they have played in the prosecution of Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.

"Lessons from the Saddam Trial" will be webcast live at http://law.case.edu/lectures. For more information and a schedule of events during the symposium, visit the law school's website at http://law.case.edu/, or call 216-368-3304 or 800-492-3308.

About the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center

In 1991, Case Western Reserve University School of Law established the Gund International Law Center through a special endowment from the George Gund Foundation. In 1994, the Gund Foundation and the School of Law dedicated and renamed the Center to honor alumnus and former university trustee, Frederick K. Cox. Through its rich and innovative curriculum, experiential labs and clinics, and summer internship and study abroad programs, the Center prepares students for global opportunities in law practice, business, and public service. The Center's lecture series, research, and publication projects explore critical issues in international justice and global legal reform, ranging from war crimes to intellectual property, and from judicial reform to peace in the Middle East.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, October 3, 2006 02:08 PM | News Topics: Events, HeadlinesMain, Lectures/Speakers, Provost Initiatives, Public Policy/Politics

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.