Thursday, July 1, 2004

The Bush administration said yesterday that it has provided $75 million and staff support to the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime, but it insisted it is not interfering in the proceedings.

The administration said the U.S. involvement in the process is consistent with international rules and follows a pattern established in similar tribunals.

“Currently, there is a regime crimes adviser, as well as staff, who are working with Iraqi counterparts to support the Iraqi Special Tribunal,” said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

“I would also note that the United States has contributed $75 million to the Iraqi government to help fund the Iraqi Special Tribunal and to fund investigations into crimes of the former regime,” he said.

The only purpose of the assistance is “to help ensure that they have the resources and the training to conduct fair, open and effective prosecutions,” Mr. Ereli said. The Justice Department “has the lead,” and “our embassy is working closely with the Iraqi legal and judicial authorities in coordinating the assistance,” he added.

He also said that the United States is helping to gather evidence against Saddam that would be used in court.

“We are working with [nongovernmental organizations] and others to help compile and share information that we have been able to collect pertaining to matters under consideration by the court. This is a process that has been going on for some time and will continue for some time,” he said.

Mr. Ereli said he saw no contradiction between supporting the tribunal financially and trying to stay out of its operations.

“That certainly is the pattern in other examples where you have special tribunals trying former leaders for crimes committed under the regime,” he said. “It is common practice and certainly consistent with the independence and sovereignty of Iraq.”

Mr. Ereli said the principles that will “guide” the trial include:

• presumption of innocence;

• right of the defendants to a fair trial and a public hearing;

• right to be notified of the details of the charges;

• right to legal assistance of one’s own choosing;

• assistance paid for if the defendants are unable to provide for themselves;

• right to confront witnesses against one’s self;

• right not to be compelled to testify against one’s self.

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