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Lessons from Hussein Trials

Case Western Reserve University Law Professor Michael Scharf calls the Saddam Hussein trial one of the messiest in history. Since last October, the former Iraqi leader has been tried for his alleged role in a massacre of 148 men and boys after a failed assassination attempt in 1982.

The saga has seen six different officiating judges rotate through the court, Saddam making court appearances in his long underwear, and the murder of three of his lawyers.

Michael Scharf: So many things went wrong during the trial that its really important that we start talking about how to correct them, so we can fix these for the next trial already ongoing and then trials around the world in the future.

Scharf is an adviser to the Iraqi Special Tribunal created to oversee Saddam's trials. While the world waits for judgment in Saddam's first trial, his second has just begun. He and six other defendants are being tried for the killing of more than 100,000 Kurds during "Operation Anfal" in 1988.

Michael Scharf: The first trial I'd say was a test run, a judicial lab and fortunately the first case was much smaller in scope than the ones to come.

Scharf says the Saddam trial has ramifications not only for other war crimes tribunals in countries like Cambodia, but also for us here at home.

Michael Scharf: The real question is a legal question; can a leader make these orders when they've had an assassination attempt, or at war or fighting terrorists and its near and dear to our hearts in America right now because it tells us that we have to be careful where we draw the line in our war on terror.

The Case symposium begins this morning with a speech by the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. He'll also participate with Case's Michael Scharf and other international legal experts to hammer out a list of recommendations for Iraqi Special Tribunal on how to handle future cases. Also today, Case Western Reserve University is dedicating the archives of the U.N. War Crimes Commission for the former Yugoslavia. The archives include more than 40 volumes of documents, artifacts and maps never before seen by the public. Mhari Saito, 90.3.