"Why Don't You Just Execute Us?"
“The Defense considers it their duty to point out at this juncture another peculiarity of this Trial which departs from the commonly recognized principles of modern jurisprudence. The Judges have been appointed exclusively by States which were the one party in this war. This one party to the proceeding is all in one: creator of the statute of the Tribunal and of the rules of law, prosecutor and judge. It used to be until now the common legal conception that this should not be so; just as the United States of America, … always demanded that neutrals, or neutrals and representatives of all parties, should be called to the Bench….”But this motion was not filed by defense counsel for Saddam Hussein. No, this motion was filed in November 1945 by defense counsel near the beginning of the Nuremberg trial challenging the legitimacy of that tribunal.
Today, Saddam Hussein is trying the same approach. Here is a brief excerpt of the exchange at Hussein’s trial today:
Judge: ''Mr. Khalil, if you are going to leave the room, it will harm your client. The court will be obliged to appoint lawyers from the defense bureau.''
Saddam: ''The court is allowing the witness to speak, but it does not allow the defense lawyers to defend. Is this the justice?''
Judge: ''You will be heard.''
Al-Dulaimi: ''We will not stop until we receive the full answer to the question we are concerned with.''
Judge: ''We will give you enough time, regarding the refutation of the legitimacy of this court. This court is legitimate, legal and formed according to a law issued by the National Assembly.''
Saddam: ''Under the American occupation!''
Judge: ''No, and you are not allowed to speak.'
Saddam: ''How is it legitimate while it is the Americans who formed it?''
Al-Dulaimi: ''We will make presentations to you and refute the legitimacy of this court -- that was based on the unjust U.S. aggression -- verbally and then in writing.''
Then, after the judge called a recess, Saddam Hussein shouted, “Why don’t you just execute us?”
The tactic of challenging the legitimacy of the Nuremberg tribunal didn't work in 1945. Hopefully it won't work in calling into question the legitimacy of the Hussein trial in 2005.