CAIRO: During his trial last week,incarcerated fromer Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein accused his American guards of torturing him, an allegation that provoked diverse reactions inside Egypt. Human rights groups, however, remain silent in reaction to the claims.
The leader, who is strongly suspected of killing thousands during his reign, has been on trial charged with the murder of 148 people after the Dujail town incident in 1982. In this famous incident, a small group of militants opened fire on Hussein’s presidential convoy following a formal visit to the mixed Shi’i and Sunni town. In retaliation, witnesses claim that Hussein carried out large scale arrests in the days that followed. According to press reports, his regime captured whole families, including children as young as six. Some of those arrested never reappeared and are believed to have been either persecuted or condemned to death.
Hussein is expected to receive a death sentence, if convicted.
Some Egyptians – who object to the procedures of the trial – echo views like those of the former Qatari minister of justice who perceives the trial as another “sham of justice staged by the United Sates.
For two years the Americans spent millions of dollars, seeking the help of Arab,American, and British experts to make the trial look justifiable, said the former minister,who is also one of Hussein’s defense attorneys.
“I am against putting him on trial; let alone torturing him, said Samir Essmat, an Egyptian construction engineer. “The system that is judging him [referring to the Americans] is already corrupt. Who gives them the right to remove an elected president, occupy his country under a false claim and then try him?
“It was enough humiliation for him to be removed and imprisoned, said Maha El-Sherif, a marketing student. “They should not try or mistreat him in the first place.They should give him a life-sentence and let it be.
Another Egyptian citizen, science journalist Nadia El-Awwady, said, “Regardless of affiliations; if a person accuses a certain entity of something like torture, an investigation into the allegations should immediately take place. According to El-Awwady, the fact that the captors and the controllers of the trial procedures are American raises questions about the trial’s fairness. “I understand, though, that the judges are Iraqis and it is the Iraqis’ right to see Saddam prosecuted, she said.
According to a recent New York Times report, on the sixth day of the trial,”Saddam erupted; standing at the microphone in the dock to say that all the testimony about torture had been ‘invented’ by the Americans and dictated to the Dujail witnesses.
“They talk about torture, Hussein said, “But don t you think it would be responsible for you to ask us, the defendants, if we have been tortured? I have been beaten on every part of my body, and the marks are still all over me . Beaten by the Americans, and tortured, alleged Hussein.
The White House officially denied Hussein was being tortured, stating that “Hussein is being treated the exact opposite of the way his regime treated those he imprisoned.
According to Hussein, his confinement conditions are unsatisfactory. “There is no sun for Saddam Hussein, he said.
“No torture can be justified whether it concerns Saddam or any other human being, said Mohammad Wahby of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.
“Nonetheless, we cannot take Saddam’s words for granted. He is probably using the tribunal to publicize his counter attacks and to justify his actions. According to Wahby, being a former Arab leader, Hussein’s claims “count and will resonate among people. In a way, he represents Arab dignity.
Sharing the same views, Gamal Essam Eddin, political columnist at Al-Ahram Weekly told The Daily Star Egypt that he does not believe Saddam’s claims. “He might have been badmouthed,but I refuse to believe that he was physically abused.
Interestingly,Middle East and international human rights organizations have ignored Hussein’s claims.Amnesty International is one of the organizations monitoring the trial for guarantees of fairness; however, their attention is centered on the witnesses and the victims brought to testify against Hussein.
“It is easy to believe that Hussein was tortured and beaten by American soldiers, said Mohammad Zarie of the Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners. Zarie said that the images from Abu Gharib prison and other recorded incidents prove that “torture as a demeanor is apparently systematic.
According to Zarie, head of the aforementioned Egyptian rights group, “One of the main roles of the Iraqi human rights groups is to investigate the assertions of Saddam . They are still so immature that they cannot separate between their emotions about a political issue on one side and their proper conduct as human rights activists towards the issue on another. International organizations have not done their proper job concerning this issue, added Zarie. “But of course, the Americans will hold back any investigation into the allegations of torture.