Saddam on Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal

Carolina Academic Press, 2006

16 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2008

See all articles by Gregory S. McNeal

Gregory S. McNeal

Pepperdine University School of Law; Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy; AirMap, Inc.

Michael P. Scharf

Case Western Reserve University School of Law


Saddam Hussein. Derided as the Butcher of Baghdad, the Iraqi leader was toppled from power by a U.S. military invasion in 2003, charged with the most serious crimes known to mankind, and then brought to justice before a novel war crimes court known as the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT).

From October 2005 through July 2006, Saddam and seven of his henchmen engaged in a legal battle of epic proportions, with their lives literally in the balance. The first of several planned trials before the Iraqi High Tribunal, this proceeding focused on the destruction of the town of Dujail and the torture and murder of its inhabitants in retaliation for a 1982 failed assassination attempt. Billed by the international media as the real trial of the century, the televised proceedings were punctuated by gripping testimony of atrocities, controversial judicial rulings, assassination of defense counsel, the resignation of judges, scathing outburst by the defendants, allegations of mistreatment, hunger strikes, and even underwear appearances.

Was it a mistake to try Saddam in Baghdad before a panel of Iraqi judges rather than before an international tribunal? Was the Iraqi High Tribunal legitimate judicial institution? Were the proceedings fundamentally fair? Did the judges react properly to the defendants' attempts to derail the proceedings? Did the Prosecution prove its case? Did Saddam have any valid defenses? What precedents did this extraordinary trial set?

This book thus reproduces the best of the expert essays, and includes English translations of the most important documents related to the trial. It also includes a psychological profile of Saddam Hussein written by a former CIA profiler, a glossary of key legal terms, a timeline of the trial, a summary of the evidence and testimony, and recommendations for future trials. This book is written in a style intended to appeal to the general reader, as well as to law students, undergraduates, academics and journalists. At the same time, we hope policy makers and jurists will benefit from our critiques and recommendations related to the future of international war crimes trials.

Keywords: Saddam Hussein, Saddam Trial, Iraqi High Tribunal, war crimes, international criminal law, Iraq, international humanitarian law

JEL Classification: K3, K33, H56

Suggested Citation

McNeal, Gregory S. and Scharf, Michael P., Saddam on Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal. Carolina Academic Press, 2006. Available at SSRN:

Gregory S. McNeal (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

AirMap, Inc. ( email )

409 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States


Michael P. Scharf

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

Case Western Reserve University, School of Law
11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
216-368-3299 (Phone)
216-368-2086 (Fax)

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