Rules for Dealing With Saddam

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, December 15, that has been edited for clarity.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: He will be detained. We will work with the Iraqis to develop a -- a way to try him. Whatever justice is meted out needs to stand international scrutiny.


BRIT HUME, HOST: At least one member of the Iraqi Governing Council (search) is already talking about putting Saddam Hussein on trial and executing him. How Saddam will actually be tried, as the president suggest, has not been fully determined.

I'm joined by Neil Kritz, director of Rule of Law program at the United States Institute of Peace.

Thank you for being here.


HUME: What is the -- what are obligations the United States now have under international law, Geneva Convention (search), whatever, for dealing with Saddam Hussein as we're detaining him?

KRITZ: Well, the United States initially will need to process him. A formal determination has yet to be made as to whether he's granted enemy prisoner of war status. But at any rate, the decision...

HUME: That would be done by the United States?

KRITZ: That would be done by coalition forces under the Geneva Convention.

HUME: Right.

KRITZ: But in the interim, the same as the other thousands of detainees who have been picked up, up until now, he will de facto be afforded the benefits of prisoner of war status in any event.

HUME: And that means that, what? He has to be treated humanely?

KRITZ: Treated humanely in a certain way, that governs rules in terms of what's permissible, in terms of interrogation, in terms of how he's handled, in terms of whether he can be turned over to anyone. And that process, as I say, will continue for some time. But that will permit coalition forces also to proceed with interrogation as they evolve this year.

HUME: And they can't use any untoward means to elicit...

KRITZ: Exactly.

HUME: Right. Now, can he be taking to other places? Could he be taken to Qatar (search), or some other country legitimately?

KRITZ: There will be debate over that. And that is one of the issues that has come up as to whether under the Geneva Convention he can be transported outside of the country. And that will continue to be subject of debate.

HUME: And that would -- I assume that's also probably true of the Guantanamo prisoners now therefore, right?

KRITZ: Exactly.

HUME: All right. Let's move ahead a little bit. The Iraqis say they want him; they're going to try him under their own processes.

President Bush suggesting the Iraqis would obviously have a major role in this. The Iraqis have done what? They've moved to set up a tribunal of some kind already, correct?

KRITZ: Well, actually, that's right. And despite all the discussion in the last 24 hours as to what options might be the most appropriate, last week even prior to the apprehension, as a result of months of work, the Governing Council in Iraq had already adopted a statute to create a special tribunal to prosecute not only Saddam, but other members of the regime for the abuses.

HUME: What kind of -- what does the tribunal look like as designed?

KRITZ: It will be in contrasts to the international bodies that have been set up, for example, to prosecute Milosevic (search) in Yugoslavia. It will be an Iraqi tribunal that will be established and include Iraqi judges, Iraqi prosecutor, Iraqi investigators.

Importantly, though, the statute provides explicitly an option for the Governing Council, should it deem appropriate to appoint non-Iraqi judges to the trial and appeals chambers as well. And mandates that there must be non-Iraqi advisers and observers appointed to every piece of this tribunal, to the trial and appeals chambers to the investigative chamber, to the prosecution section; so as to bring international expertise and assistance both to monitor the process, and also to assist the Iraqis move forward.

HUME: Does it sound like a public trial, televised trial or any of those issues?

KRITZ: It has already been decided that it will be a public trial. And again, not just for Saddam, but for many others. It will take some time. And again, despite the euphoria of the last 24 hours, it will take some time to establish this process to select and train the right people, to develop the case material. There is, after all, there's some 3 million documents that have been accumulated thus far.

HUME: So in other words, for lawyers to prepare a case and a defense, this is going to take a long time, don't you think?

KRITZ: We're months off in all likelihood.

HUME: Months or possibly more than -- maybe a year?

KRITZ: I suspect it will be less than a year.

HUME: I see.

KRITZ: I suspect that sometime in the next...

HUME: Now -- now, with Iraq.

KRITZ: ... we'll see the beginning of a process and at least getting far enough to be able to issue an indictment.

HUME: Now, Iraq is a country under occupation. Does this tribunal have standing international law?

KRITZ: The tribunal, to the extent that the Governing Council has adopted the statute and quite frankly, to the extend that that has credibility on the ground for Iraqis, the process will move forward. Once July 1 comes and the coalition authority officially dissolves, assuming the timetable of the recent political agreement holds, then a new Iraqi government will take this over.

HUME: Now what about possible punishments? You heard Kofi Annan (search) saying today that if the death penalty were in prospect, that a U.N. could not participate, recognize, or approve in any way. Does that matter?

KRITZ: Well, it matters in the following sense. The international community -- we unfortunately have garnered a lot of experience in recent years with respect to helping countries deal with these kinds of issues, whether it's Rwanda or Yugoslavia or Sierra Leone or any number of other places. And the lesson is to the extent that there's public local ownership of the process, that's good. The optimal approach is to have the Iraqis actually own and run this process themselves.

HUME: And decide on punishment themselves.

KRITZ: But they need international assistance. And without that international assistance, the process will suffer.

HUME: So if this causes the loss of that, it would hurt, right?

Neil Kritz, pleasure to have you. Thanks very much.

KRITZ: Thank you very much.

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