Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ramsey Clark's Antics of Justice

Here's how AP reported Ramsey Clark's recent outburst:

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is part of Saddam's defense team but did not attend Sunday's session, denounced the court as "lawless" and repeated calls for it to be moved out of Iraq.

"Now the court is seated without the defendants' counsel of choice. This is wrong," Clark said, speaking from New York.

Clark's comments are predictable. He is in Iraq for political reasons, and all his comments are made through the grid of trying to discredit United States actions there. The best way he has to do that now is through criticizing the new Iraqi democratic government and it's judicial system. It makes no difference to Clark that Saddam has committed crimes against humanity. Saddam's crimes are as well documented as Hitler's or Stalin's crimes against humanity, though neither Hitler or Stalin were tried in a court of law.

Here are some of the actions AP reported as triggering the expulsion of the defense team:

The session, which was the first since Dec. 22, rapidly degenerated into chaos. Ibrahim [co-defendant] called the court "the daughter of a whore" and refused to sit down. Abdel-Rahman [the judge] ordered him removed, and Ibrahim scuffled with two guards before they dragged him out of the courtroom.

Then defense lawyer Salih al-Armouti, a Jordanian, was forcibly removed from the court for yelling at Abdel-Rahman [the judge].

The entire defense team walked out in protest. "This is an unjust and illegitimate court," Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam's chief lawyer, told the judge on the way out. [emphasis mine]

Now if Clark really wanted to bring up the issue of lawlessness, he could have used the defense used in the Nuremburg trials:


19 November 1945

. . .

The present Trial can . . . not invoke existing international law, it is rather a proceeding pursuant to a new penal law, a penal law enacted only after the crime. This is repugnant to a principle of jurisprudence sacred to the civilized world, the partial violation of which by Hitler's Germany has been vehemently discountenanced outside and inside the Reich. This principle is to the effect that only he can be punished who offended against a law in existence at the time of the commission of the act and imposing a penalty. This maxim is one of the great fundamental principles of the political systems of the Signatories of the Charter for this Tribunal themselves, to wit, of England since the Middle Ages, of the United States since their creation, of France since its great revolution, and the Soviet Union. And recently when the Control Council for Germany enacted a law to assure the return to a just administration of penal law in Germany, it decreed in the first place the restoration of the maxim, "No punishment without a penal law in force at the time of the commission of the act". This maxim is precisely not a rule of expediency but it derives from the recognition of the fact that any defendant must needs consider himself unjustly treated if he is punished under an ex post facto law.

Imposing an ex post facto law is surely more lawless than not allowing a defendant's lawyer of choice to scream at the judge. And there probably wasn't a law in Iraq saying that Saddam couldn't torture or kill whoever he wanted. The only downside is that it would put Ramsey on the side of the Nazis. Hmm. That wouldn't do.

So, instead Ramsey has to stick up for Jerry Springer-type courtroom antics and call attempts to maintain order in the courtroom "lawless". (The actions of Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman in maintaining order in his courtroom wouldn't seem at all strange to US judges who routinely not only throw people out of their courtrooms but also fine them and send them to jail for "contempt of court".)

For theatrics, it would be great to move the trial to, say, New York City. It could be billed as an off Broadway play.

Thinking seriously, since most of Saddam's crimes were against the Iraqi people, they deserve the right to try him by their standards--not Ramsey Clark's or anyone else's. That's what we used to call not imposing your own cultural norms on (bullying?) others. Maybe the Iraqis should consider using the standards of justice and court decorum they learned under Saddam. But, they're better than that--and better than Ramsey Clark's politically motivated, antic-style justice as well.

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