War criminals

December 30, 2006

Why some war criminals are more equal than others

Rajeev Srinivasan on show trials and victors’ justice

Tower of Skulls, Killing Fields, CambodiaTower of Skulls, Killing Fields, Cambodia

The precipitate hanging of former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq on 30th December was probably inappropriate, illegal, and counter-productive. This is for several reasons: one, that there were several other cases against Hussein that should have been heard; two, that this punishment is likely to increase the level of violence in Iraq; but three, and most of all, because it is hard to escape the feeling that the proceedings were stage-managed.

The crime for which Hussein has been hanged was that of killing 148 people in Dujail. But there are far bigger crimes for which he could and should have been tried, for instance, the campaign against Kurds in which 100,000 may have been killed. And to get a sense of proportion, let us remember that one million (15% of the entire population) were killed by the ghastly Marxist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during their heyday.

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