A strong democracy has three components:
- An elected assembly to create the laws
- An independent judiciary who carry out the laws
- An independent civil service to manage and draft the laws
In Iraq, they have the elected assembly; if they’d kept some lower level Ba’athists in power they’d have a very efficient civil service; but their judicial system is really being shown up to be weak and ineffective, if not dangerously inflammatory.
Why? This BBC article highlights a weakness in logic that makes the whole idea of democracy in the Middle East, as wished for by the US, rather dubious.
Saddam Hussein was a monster, but he was also a Head of State, and he was involved in more than just one trial. By executing him so fast after he lost the first case against him, that of being responsible for the deaths of 148 Shias, he can no longer testify in the second trial, which looks into the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi Kurds.
Now, you may think “what does this matter, he’s dead anyway and a second death sentence against him wouldn’t make him any deader.” That’s correct, but as he was also involved in the second trial, and now will not be able to give any evidence in that, how can guilt fairly be proven against the remaining defendants?
I have no doubt the other defendants, including Saddam’s cousin, “Chemical Ali,” will be found guilty and hanged too, after all, at Nuremberg it wasn’t necessary for Hitler to be present for all his cronies to be found guilty.
The problem in my eyes is the unholy haste or rush to execution that occurred, and the flag of weakness and desperation that this flies to whoever wishes to look.
If Mr Maliki & Co think that it is a sign of a strong democracy to rapidly execute those it’s creaky judicial system finds guilty, even before all the charges that have been brought against them have been tried, so that all the other charges have to be dropped, then it is a sad day for democracy in the Middle East.
Since the sponsor of this democracy, and the guarantor of that country’s security is the US, it also makes me worry about the kind of democracy the US understands, or wants overseas. Since Iraq is not in America (yet), the ultimate responsibility for overseeing things lies with the US President.
One of the tenets of democracy is that of the rule of law, which is why an independent judiciary is needed – to impose that law without bias. For this, precendents are used in all legal systems with an Anglo-Saxon basis of case law, and in some other legal systems too.
George Bush II seems only to want to treat each problem in isolation from its consequences, and is unwilling to look into the future to see how today’s actions may define next year’s dictators and human rights violations who just follow the precedent.
The signal of dropping charges against Saddam takes away from the Kurds any feeling of a sense that the new Iraq cares about justice for them. It also shows that the Iraqi government feels itself to be very weak, scared of leaving Saddam alive, even temporarily, until the end of all trials in which he was named as a defendant – even if this meant weakening the other trials against his co-defendants.
Dropping charges against Saddam somehow puts Saddam in a sympathetic light: while the Iraqi judiciary could not try a dead man as he had no recourse to a defense, his supporters will no doubt claim that he was executed before he could be tried for these other crimes as the evidence against him was so weak. Now we shall never know: all we have is the evidence that Saddam signed the death warrants of a few dozen more people than did George Bush II as Governor of Texas.
Defenders of the Maliki government will say that Iraqi law states that an execution must take place 30 days after sentencing, but does sentencing have to be carried out so soon? Could it not have been delayed until after the verdict of the second trial came in? That would have allowed justice for all in Iraq to be seen to have been carried out, and the Political bias against Saddam would have been seen to have been weakened.
As it is, what has been weakened is the Maliki goverment, the US position on democracy in the Middle East, and the principle of fair trials in non-Western countries in the future. A strong government can abide resistance because it has a strong democracy. This mess clearly has further to go though.