The Iraqi Special Tribunal was set up by the occupation authorities last year and lacks even a semblence of independence. Completely funded by Washington, it is advised on every level by a team of at least 50 officials...
Two legal processes contributed to the political dramas of the last month. On July 1, after the formal transfer of power from the US-dominated international occupying forces in Iraq to a supposedly sovereign Iraqi government installed in Baghdad by the US, Saddam Hussein was brought before an Iraqi court to be charged with crimes against humanity in what can only be described as a political show trial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal was set up by the occupation authorities last year and lacks even a semblence of independence. Completely funded by Washington, it is advised on every level by a team of at least 50 officials. Agents of the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are conducting the investigation into Saddam’s crimes, and the charges are being framed by officials of the the US Justice Department. The tribunal is led by Salem Chalebi, a leader of the Iraqi National Congress (set up by the CIA in the 1990s and financed by Washington for more than a decade). The thirteen charges announced against Saddam are clearly designed to satisfy various political factions in Iraq and the Arab world, while ignoring Iranian demands that Saddam’s invasion of Iran be included; the last thing the US wants is any discussion of who supported Saddam in that. The process having served its symbolic purpose of demonstrating the supposed independence of the new regime (as well as distracting attention from the US’s dire performance in Iraq), Saddam is unlikely to appear again in court for months, if not years; many doubt whether he ever will be, considering the damage his testimony could do to the US.
Later in the month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the so-called anti-terrorist wall that Israel is building to redefine the boundary between ‘Israel proper’ and the West Bank is illegal under international law. The ruling is not binding, and was immediately rejected by the Israeli government, but provides the basis for Palestinians and their supporters to increase political pressure on Israel.
However, there is in truth little cause for celebration in either of these processes; neither will deliver justice, either for the victims of Saddam’s crimes, or for the people of Palestine. Instead both legal processes serve, in fact, to legitimise other crimes committed by those involved in the judicial processes themselves. The charging of Saddam was a blatant show-trial designed not to achieve justice but to serve the US’s political imperative of legitimising its invasion -- supposedly to overthrow a brutal dictator -- and the government it has established there. The condemnation of Israel at the ICJ is based on the same international order that established and legitimised the Zionist state, and its dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in the first place.
The appeal of these processes is obvious; millions of Muslims have long wanted to see Saddam and Israel in the dock, anywhere, for anything. We should be clear, however, that the legitimacy of a legal process depends on the legitimacy of the authorities administering it. It is likely to be a very long time before Muslims find real justice anywhere.