October 09, 2006

First Saddam trial book penned by Case law professors

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Over the past year, when reporters and members of Congress needed legal information about what was happening in the Saddam Hussein trial, they turned to the legal experts at Case Western Reserve University's Frederick K. Cox International Law Center, who were running a real-time Blog as court events unfolded. Now on the eve of the judgment those same professors have released the first book on the Saddam Trial—Saddam On Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal (Carolina Academic Press).

During the nine months of the trial for the man who became known as "the butcher of Baghdad," over 100,000 people around the world logged on to Case Western's "Grotian Moment: The Saddam Hussein Trial Blog", where legal experts associated with the trial and international law scholars posted running commentaries analyzing the legal issues raised during the proceedings. The Blog won four "Web Awards" and quickly established itself as the number one location on the Internet related to the Saddam Trial. The Blog essays were even translated into Arabic and read each day over the air by a popular Iraqi radio station.

Inspired by the public's interest in their Blog, Michael Scharf (director of the Cox International Law Center) and Gregory McNeal (assistant director of Institute for Global Security Law and Policy) began saving, organizing, editing, and expanding upon the online information to produce—Saddam On Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal.

"At the outset of the Iraqi High Tribunal's first trial, we sought to do something unique—bring together a select group of the world's leading experts on international criminal law, engage them in an ongoing scholarly debate regarding these issues and the unfolding developments in the trial of Saddam Hussein, and publicize that debate in real time for the world to view over the Web," said Scharf.

With the content of the website growing into thousands of pages making it harder for readers to digest, the authors began expanding, editing, and organizing the information in January to have the 428-page book completed in time for the Saddam trial's judgment on October 16.

"In order to understand what that judgment means, and its historic significance," McNeal said "a broader understanding of the tribunal's formation and the conduct of the trial is necessary."

Key questions examined in the book include: whether it was a mistake to try Saddam before Iraqi judges in Baghdad, was the Iraqi High Tribunal a legitimate legal court, were the procedures fair, did the judges react fairly when confronted with hunger strikes or disruptive actions by the defendants, was coverage of the trial accurate, and what lessons were learned that could be applied to the subsequent trials in Iraqi or other international courts.

Saddam on Trial is the first blog-to-book in international law, notes Scharf. It contains 80 essays that evolved from the web postings, as well as a timeline of the trial, a glossary of key legal terms, a political-psychological profile of Saddam Hussein, and English translations of the defendants' indictments and the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure.

"The Saddam Trial turned out to be one of the most controversial and messy trials in legal history. The press coverage was often inaccurate and misleading. Our book will help readers make sense of the proceedings, as well as educate them about all sorts of interesting issues related to international criminal law," said Scharf. "Because of its easy-to-read, journalistic style, the book will appeal to ordinary readers, as well as to lawyers, academics, and students of international law," adds McNeal.

The Case law professors are well situated to discuss the implications of international war crimes.

Scharf, a former State Department Attorney-Adviser, served on an elite team of international law experts who trained the judges and prosecutors on the Iraqi High Tribunal. Last year, Scharf was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by six governments and the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his work assisting five international war crimes tribunals. In the past year, he has appeared over 200 times on national media to provide expert commentary on the Saddam Trial.

McNeal, a Senior Fellow in Terrorism and Homeland Security, is one of two law professors in the world overseeing the work of students who are preparing legal memoranda for the Chief Prosecutor of the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions. During the Saddam trial, he contributed legal memoranda as part of an international academic consortium for the Iraqi High Tribunal, which was created by Scharf. The former United States Army officer also has appeared on talk radio, served as the executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Policy and has authored editorials which appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, National Review Online and The Weekly Standard.

For more information: Susan Griffith 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, October 9, 2006 02:46 PM | News Topics: HeadlinesMain, Public Policy/Politics, School of Law

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