Published October 19, 2005
In a country still in the shadow of Saddam Hussein (search), where those loyal to him are ready and willing to harm those working to bring him to justice, some residents have already seen friends and family members murdered by terrorists hoping to stop the former dictator from being tried for his crimes.
The Iraqi Special Tribunal (search) will sift through millions of documents, interview hundreds of witnesses and unearth dozens of mass graves in efforts to boil down Saddam's 30-year reign of terror into a series of legally rigorous indictments against him. The most damnable crimes include genocide and crimes against humanity.
Investigators say Saddam could be tried for more than 300 crimes, but for now they have focused on about a dozen.
The main charges include the invasion of Kuwait (search), which resulted in the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent violent suppression of mass uprisings in northern and southern Iraq; crimes against humanity such as the destruction of the southern marshlands and the forced deportation of thousands of Fayli Kurds to Iran; and the genocidal chemical weapons attack on Iraqi Kurds in 1988, during which more than 5,000 were killed and thousands more injured, making it the largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (search) told FOX he has no doubt about Saddam.
"I think Saddam Hussein [is] a war criminal," he said.
And Iraq's first minister of human rights after Saddam's regime fell, Bakhtier Amin, agrees.
"Saddam Hussein himself was a weapon of mass destruction," he said.
Amin is a longtime crusader against the dictator who will finally see him in the dock thanks to the American-led Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The amount of evidence and the amount of witnesses which exist, and the long list of atrocity crimes committed by this regime talks for itself," Amin said.
FOX News contributor and former top aide to Ambassador Paul Bremer, who led the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Dan Senor visited the many people and places at the center of this historical event.
Senor and his FOX News investigative team received unprecedented access as they went behind the scenes ahead of the trial and spoke with the Iraqi jurists working to bring Saddam to justice.
Some of those jurists had never talked to the press for fear that terrorists who don't want to see Saddam go to trial would target them or their families.
Jaffar Abdul-Jabbar, lead prosecutor of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, is appearing on camera for the first time, shedding his anonymity and the measure of security that goes with it to show that the tribunal will be fair and transparent.
"My brother, who was also my personal driver, was killed six months ago," he said. "This trial will expose many crimes that … the people of Iraq never knew about."
Chief Investigative Judge Raid Juhi (search) already knows what it's like to have the eyes of the nation on him. Last July, many Americans were transfixed by pictures of Saddam being hauled into court. A bigger shock to Iraqis was that Juhi allowed himself to be seen on camera — putting a bull's-eye on his forehead, as well as on his family, friends and colleagues.
"We want to show to the world that Iraq does have a solid legal system, and it is independent," he told FOX News in an interview at his offices in Baghdad's protected Green Zone.
A lawyer representing Saddam's family told FOX News he believes the United States will cut a deal in the upcoming war crimes trial of Saddam — a "political settlement" that would allow him to return to power.
"You can't just walk into countries, invade them and plant government of your choosing," Abdul Haq al-Ani told FOX News.
Al-Ani, who advises Saddam's daughter, Raghad Hussein, on her father's legal defense strategy, also compared Saddam with Nelson Mandela, the South African civil rights leader who spent 27 years behind bars as a political prisoner.
"Why wouldn't I?" al-Ani asked. "Each, each one of them is a leader of his own country. Everybody was saying that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. And he was, he was justly imprisoned."
Bremer Speaks to FOX
Bremer, who granted FOX a rare interview at his New England home, said that while Americans have advised the Iraqis in setting up the tribunal, the United States is by no means calling the shots.
The FOX hour explores some controversial decisions made by the Iraqis. These include the strategy to try Saddam first on a relatively unknown case involving his response to an attempt to assassinate him in 1982.
Some legal experts think a better legal strategy would begin with one of the more notorious cases, such as the gassing of the Kurds, which carries a charge of genocide.
"Look, in any criminal trial there's always a risk," Bremer told FOX. "You could argue there will be some short-term problems in doing it, but again this is [the] Iraqis' decision. This isn't something the Americans decided."
That's not to say U.S. officials will not be involved in the trial — certainly not if Saddam's lawyers have their way.
Al-Ani said he intends to call President Bush, former Presidents Bush and Clinton, as well as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — and that's just for starters.
"Everyone who took part from 1991 until 2003 would … have to come and testify under oath. Yes, absolutely," al-Ani said.
Bush administration officials tell FOX they have made no plans for testimony by any of the former presidents or high-ranking officials. But law professor Michael Scharf, a war crimes expert and Nobel Peace prize nominee who has advised the Iraqi Special Tribunal, wouldn't be surprised if President Bush appeared — if only by video link.
"I think it's going to be a very difficult question for the Bush administration," Scharf said. "The tribunal and the U.S. government know that if these people don't testify, it's going to make it look like Saddam Hussein is not getting a fair trial."
Tune in to FOX News and log on to FOXNews.com for the most complete coverage anywhere of this historic trial.
FOX News' Dan Senor, Brian Gaffney, Grace Cutler and Heather Scroope contributed to this report.