- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

LONDON Saddam Hussein may have evaded the laser-guided bombs of the U.S. Air Force, but he cannot disappear forever. If he is captured alive, his nemesis will be Pierre-Richard Prosper, an American lawyer determined that the Iraqi people should see him finally brought to justice.
Mr. Prosper, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who used to target gang crimes, is U.S. ambassador for war crimes.
It will be part of his task to put Saddam in the docket and, although charges have yet to be drawn up, he will not be short of evidence. During the dictator's 24 years in power, at least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by his regime.
"There's a whole range, from war crimes to crimes against humanity," said Mr. Prosper, who was a prosecutor at the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Rwanda. "There are people out there who argue that [what Saddam did] is even greater, and in the area of genocide. Torture, murder, persecution his regime has violated every rule in the book. He has quite a bit of answering to do."
As well as Saddam, Mr. Prosper, 39, is focusing on the 54 other regime leaders depicted on "most wanted" playing cards produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The 12 worst have been dubbed "the dirty dozen," and Saddam's face is on the ace of spades.
In fact, depending on the evidence gathered, hundreds of ringleaders could be targeted. Said Mr. Prosper: "We look at the core leadership as being the necessary level of symbolic justice that will allow reconciliation to begin."
Who should administer this justice?
Neither the International Criminal Court nor the United Nations, but the sovereign nations to which the victims belonged, said Mr. Prosper. Those accused of war crimes against U.S. troops in recent weeks or during the Gulf war should be tried by military tribunals or civilian courts in the United States, while offenses against Kuwaitis and Iranians should be dealt with by those countries.
As for Saddam's crimes, Mr. Prosper believes the Iraqis should take the lead, and that their former president and his henchmen should be tried in Iraq. "We really need to allow the Iraqis the opportunity to do this. They are the victims. It is their country that was oppressed and abused. We want them to have a leadership role, and we're there to be supportive.
"If [justice] is delivered by a third party, Iraqis will dismiss it as being imperialist or politically motivated justice. If you put it in the hands of an international organization, the domestic participation is minimized, and you have people who come in and will be the ones calling the shots rather than the Iraqis."
The proceedings should be televised, because "it needs to be a process that is public and seen by the people."
The United States, unlike Britain, has refused to recognize the International Criminal Court, and Mr. Prosper will not contemplate allowing the court to be involved in Iraq. He says antiwar groups have announced that they will try to find ways of bringing ICC cases against coalition troops.
"Here, you have people who are clearly not even paying attention to the violations committed by the Iraqi regime, and they are trying to manufacture that's the appropriate word a case against the UK and the U.S. for political reasons."
He added, "Britain is a party [to the ICC treaty] and now they will need to answer to these manufactured charges."
U.N. war crimes tribunals, Mr. Prosper says, have proved costly, slow and too removed from the victims.
"I saw it too many times in my experience in Rwanda, where we were doing what we felt was good work in Tanzania [where the tribunal sat], and you would go into the community where the crime occurred and they had no clue. They would hear maybe a 10-second radio announcement regarding what we did, but there was not a sense of ownership, of participation. It was justice that was being administered by someone else for them."
Iraq, he says, has a strong legal tradition dating to before Saddam's rule. "There are clearly competent and qualified Iraqi jurists that exist both in the exile community as well as internally."
Mr. Prosper proposes two other tiers of justice to deal with those below the top echelon in Saddam's regime.
At the lower end of the scale, a truth and reconciliation commission, modeled on that of South Africa, could allow people to admit to and apologize for their offenses, without fear of prosecution. The Iraqi criminal courts could deal with individual offenses committed in the name of Saddam.
One reason for U.S. reluctance to let the United Nations oversee the legal cases is that this would rule out use of the death penalty.
"For the Iraqis, this is something they have on their books it's the law. It's not for us to take it away. This goes back to the whole question of the justice being accepted by the people."
Could he see Saddam escaping a death sentence?
"Only if the Iraqis didn't want it. The balance will be not only what punishment is appropriate for Saddam himself, but also what level of punishment will satisfy the society."
In Rwanda, he said, people complained that those convicted of genocide led better lives than their victims. "They were getting three meals a day, all the health care they needed. They had computers, television. They exercised, played volleyball. Then you had the person who was raped, had her entire family killed before her eyes and tortured, and she was waking up HIV-positive and scraping for food."
Although Iraqis will take the lead, said Mr. Prosper, international involvement will range from minimal to substantial, depending on the circumstances. If the numbers involved are large, foreign help will be "a distinct possibility and perhaps even necessary in order to achieve the level of credible justice that we want to see."
Some unlawful combatants, such as members of the Fedayeen Saddam who did not wear uniforms and hid among civilians might be transported to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and face American military tribunals. Some of the 600 or so Taliban and al Qaeda members already held at the camp in Cuba are likely to appear before military tribunals in the coming months.
Mr. Prosper, the son of two Haitian doctors who emigrated to the United States, recalls visiting Haiti when he was a boy. "I remember just being on the streets and commenting on how 'Baby Doc' Duvalier looked. Everybody was shocked, saying, 'Don't say that or you'll be arrested.'"
He first made his name as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, where he would visit defendants in the cells after they had been sentenced, to wish the murderers or rapists good luck in the decades they would spend in jail.
Five years ago, he paid a final visit to Jean-Paul Akayesu, a Hutu mayor convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. "I thought, 'This guy is going to have to wake up every day for the rest of his life and look at the four walls and remember what he did to his victims,'" he said.
However, Akayesu had not been at all what he expected. "This was someone articulate and intelligent, who was making a calculated decision to commit genocide rather than a raw, passionate one. I realized there could be a sophistication behind evil."
What has particularly shocked him about the crimes of Saddam's regime which he has spent two years documenting are some of the smaller, lesser-known acts.
"Like some of the things Uday [Saddams elder son] would do with members of the national soccer team that didn't perform. This was a sport, for crying out loud, and they were even torturing the participants."
Mr. Prosper considers Saddam so evil that he cannot imagine visiting him in a cell to say anything at all to him.
He would, however, like to be there when justice is delivered. "I would love to have the opportunity to be in a courtroom as he is taken away after the final sentence is administered and to make eye contact with him."

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