- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

BAGHDAD — Fearing for his life, an American-educated Iraqi assigned to set up the court to try Saddam Hussein works from a secret office and rarely sleeps in the same bed twice.

Salem Chalabi’s daily routine illustrates the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that shadows the 6-month-old Iraqi Special Tribunal as it struggles to its feet.

As long as violence prevails in Iraq, war-crimes experts say, the trial of Saddam and at least 100 other suspects of atrocities against the Iraqi people during his rule will have to wait, unless a foreign venue can be found.

“It’s a monumental task, especially in light of the security situation,” said Mr. Chalabi, 41, a nephew of the former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi, who recently fell out with Washington.

Judges are refusing to work for the tribunal after five potential candidates were killed since Saddam was toppled from power.

At least half of the court’s first budget — tens of millions of dollars — will go to security alone, Mr. Chalabi said in an interview.

Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said it will take one year to 18 months to set up a new tribunal, at best.

“I simply don’t see how you can contemplate putting Saddam on trial if there is no security,” Mr. Goldstone said by telephone from New York. “There needs to be security for the defense, judges and witnesses.”

The Yugoslav tribunal was established in the Netherlands in 1993 while the Balkan wars were still going on. In Iraq, fighting between insurgents and the occupying coalition troops claims lives each day, making it virtually impossible to send investigators into the field.

Although Iraq insists on trying Saddam itself, Mr. Goldstone recommended a court with international judges and prosecutors working alongside Iraqis. He suggested an alternate location in the Arab world, such as the United Arab Emirates.



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