Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis suffered under Saddam Hussein’s cruel regime. The survivors are anxious to tell their stories to a special war crimes tribunal that will be set up to put the former dictator and hundreds of others on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Iraqi Governing Council President Abdul Aziz al-Hakim says the tribunal will examine crimes committed between the time Saddam Hussein’s Baath party took power in 1968, and May 2003. Through a translator, he says the accused will get fair trials:
“We want to make sure that this is not seen as a tribunal for revenge. The rights of the accused are going to be guaranteed as proscribed by international law.”
Judge Dara Nooriddin heads the Council's legal Committee. He says defendants will have the right to legal counsel and the right to appeal:
“This is indeed a tribunal based on justice, law and fairness, and not [subject to] the orders of a tyrant who issues a verdict than cannot be changed or repealed as was the case under the former regime.”
Abdul-Wahid al-Obeidi, a merchant marine captain, wants to testify before the tribunal. He was arrested in 1971 for giving religious and political advice aboard his ship. Mr. Al-Obeidi told the Associated Press that he was tortured. "They would hang me from a ceiling fan by my legs,” he said. “They'd beat me with cables. When they were finished, they'd turn the fan on and leave me spinning." After more than a year of imprisonment, he was taken to what was known as the death room and lowered into a bathtub filled with nitric acid. Believing he would die soon, prison officials sent him home so his family would have to dispose of his body. But somehow, Mr. Al-Obeidi survived.
That is one of many stories yet to be told. As Mr. al-Obeidi says, so many Iraqis suffered under Saddam Hussein. "Their nails were pulled out. Their ears were cut off. We will show the evidence of our bodies,” he said. “We will tell Saddam Hussein: 'Aren't these things evidence enough of your crimes?'"