Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Smoking Signature

Over at Opinio Juris, guest-blogger Kevin Jon Heller calls our attention to an exceeding important and strangely under-reported article. On the website of the Australian Broadcasting Company is a report that prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein have presented an execution order, signed by Hussein himself, ordering the killing of 140 Iraqi Shi'ites. If authentic, this would be the first piece of hard evidence directly connecting Saddam to mass killing. This is the hardest part of trials such as this and that of Slobodan Milosevic. It's one thing to know that massacres occured under the regime of this or that leader; it's another to prove that the leader knew of the massacres and in fact ordered them. It's simple enough for a dictator to argue that in the process of putting down an uprising or enforcing the law, a rogue officer or official ordered a massacre, unbeknownst to the political leader himself. This is why it is so critical to find smoking guns such as this alleged execution order.

What puzzles me is why there is so little media coverage of this. A web search turns up almost no mention of this development other than the ABC (the Aussie version) reports. I did find one CNN report that, buried in the middle of an article about Hussein's courtroom tantrums, mentioned that "documents -- such as signed execution orders signed by Hussein -- were put into evidence." This is a huge development...why is no one reporting about it?

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