[FOUNTAIN]Saddam’s trial is next Nuremberg

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[FOUNTAIN]Saddam’s trial is next Nuremberg

As the Soviet Union began bombing Berlin at daybreak on April 29, 1945, Adolf Hitler wedded his 33-year-old mistress, Eva Braun, at the chancellor’s residence. Right after the ceremony, the 56-year-old Nazi leader wrote that he chose death to avoid the humiliation of surrender. At 3:30 a.m. the next day, the couple committed suicide together.
Upon victory, the Allies faced a new problem. The United States’ justification for participating in World War II was to stop the Nazis. Believing that immediately punishing the war criminals might impede true justice, Washington proposed a trial so that the records of the Nazi cruelty could be kept for future generations.
In November, 1945, the first international court for war criminals opened in Nuremberg. The trial had two problems. First, the mastermind behind the atrocities of World War II had committed suicide. Second, the existing law failed to address specific Nazi wrongdoings as crimes, and Hitler’s cronies blamed the late chancellor for their deeds. If the court were to follow the “no penalty without law” principle, many Nazi cruelties would not be classified as crimes.
But the International Military Tribunal opened a new frontier and ruled that individuals are ultimately responsible for criminal acts even if they were following orders. The court also proclaimed that there was no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity such as the Holocaust.
Based on the Nuremberg precedent, Israel tracked down Nazi war criminals over several decades and put them on trial. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was accused of crimes against humanity in a special court. The Rome Statute provided legal grounds in 1988 to establish the International Criminal Court.
Saddam Hussein, who stood before an Iraqi court Thursday, is an international war criminal. His crimes against humanity, from his use of chemical weapons to his persecution of the Kurds and Shiite Muslims, violated the international law. But now that Iraq’s sovereignty was transferred to the Iraqis, they will prosecute the ex-dictator.
Saddam’s fate seems to be set. But the question is whether Saddam’s trial justifies the war and whether it will guarantee democracy in Iraq. In the post 9/11 world, Saddam’s trial will be the 21st century version of Nuremberg.

by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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