- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004


The lone American on Saddam Hussein’s legal team said yesterday that he has asked the Supreme Court to declare the detention of the ousted Iraqi president unconstitutional.

The long-shot legal maneuver comes as Saddam’s attorneys await the chance to meet with their client and find out what charges he will face in a war crimes trial by Iraq’s new government in which he might face the death penalty.

“Even the basic rights of due process, the basic rights of fair trial are being stomped on,” said Washington lawyer Curtis Doebbler, who volunteered his services on the 20-member team with lawyers from Belgium, Britain, France, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia.

Mr. Doebbler said U.S. authorities have refused to let him or the other lawyers see Saddam, who was arrested in December.

Officials have said Saddam will be held in a U.S.-controlled jail until the Iraqis are ready to take physical custody of him. Iraq’s new authorities took legal control of Saddam and 11 key deputies last week.

The filing at the Supreme Court, dated Tuesday and titled “Saddam Hussein v. George W. Bush,” asks the court for permission to file an indigent appeal on the ex-dictator’s behalf. The court will have to grant special permission, however, because the documents lack Saddam’s signature, something required in court filings.

Mr. Doebbler said Saddam is “being held incommunicado,” but his wife agreed to the filing.

The Supreme Court is on a three-month summer break and likely will not act on the request until the justices return to work in late September. In paperwork at the high court, Mr. Doebbler said Saddam has sent messages through the Red Cross that “he is in urgent need of legal protection.”

The lawyer contended that Saddam’s detention violates multiple international laws and his constitutional Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process.” Mr. Doebbler also said the war-crimes tribunal planned in Iraq will be neither independent nor impartial.

The Supreme Court will review those arguments only if it grants permission for the filing.

Mr. Doebbler, a 43-year-old international human rights lawyer, filed a brief in the Supreme Court earlier this year encouraging it to rule in favor of legal rights of foreign terror suspects held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Last week, the justices decided that the nearly 600 men from 42 countries held at the prison in Cuba can use American courts to challenge their detentions.

In a dissent to that opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that federal courts will have to deal with lawsuits from “around the world, challenging actions and events far away, and forcing the courts to oversee one aspect of the executive’s conduct of a foreign war.”

Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said it is not surprising that Saddam’s lawyers tried the appeal after the Guantanamo ruling.

“The question is why would [the justices] want to consider this? I don’t think they would,” he said.

At a press conference in Washington, Mr. Doebbler said he has received threats because of his work for Saddam, who is accused of multiple killings of religious figures and members of political parties, the gassing of Kurds in Halabja, the killing of the Kurdish Barzani clan in 1983 and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

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