Bouchra Khalil: 'Saddam Hussein has good perspectives'

Hussein's lawyer talks about Saddam, his family and trial

Saddam Hussein's Lebanese lawyer Bouchra Khalil, member of the committee for defending the former Iraqi president, is one of the few women, who wished to defend the overthrown dictator on his trial. Despite her relations with Shiite leaders (her uncle, Sheikh Mohammed Taqi al-Faqih, was a student of Iraqi Shiite figure Sheikh Mohsen al-Hakeem) Bouchra has been in contact with Sunnite leaders of the collapsed regime. The Lebanese lawyer was even friends with Saddam's son Uday.

Bouchra Khalil was born in the south of Lebanon. She graduated from the law department of the Beirut University in 1979. In 1985 Khalil had practice in Belgium. She was often a guest of the Iraqi authorities in the 1990s.

Defending Saddam Hussien is not safe at all. Aren't you afraid of being killed?

It was not an easy decision for me to make. However, I am not afraid of religious fanatics, who threaten us with tortures and executions. The problem was connected with my family. I come from an old Shiite clan, I have close relations with Shiite leaders in Najaf. That is why I was criticized for my plans. I was ready to become Saddam Hussein's lawyer after his arrest. I know his family rather well, I have been to Iraq many times. In the 1990s I took part in the campaign to protest against economic sanctions. It was the time when I got acquainted with Hussein's son Uday. We developed very warm human relations.

Could you tell us more about your relations with Uday?

He was a very well-bred and educated person, especially in the field of politics and Islam. Uday knew the Quran, he would always cite verses with the political meaning from it. Once he called me in the office in Beirut and asked to send him Shiite religious literature. I picked several books and gave them to him during y next trip to Baghdad. Few people know that Uday attended classes devoted to the Shiite faith.

The charges brought against Saddam include the crime against the Shiite population of Iraq. What can you say about it?

Saddam Hussein has never oppressed any religious movements. On the contrary, he respected their top clerics. The Iraqi leader has probably fought brutally too, but he used brutal methods against the people, who directly jeopardized his regime. Shiites were among them too, but their religion did not matter. Saddam Hussein also donated money to maintain the tombs of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali. One can read about it on special boards near the tombs.

A theory says there is no evidence to prove Saddam's crimes, because many of his orders have not been documented deliberately. Is it true?

One will have to find it out. Lawyers will have to collect all materials on the case, analyze them and then they will see if Saddam did so or not. The discovered information might be very vague to be referred to as evidence.

What can you say about mass graves uncovered in Iraq?

It is very hard to determine who was buried there and when. Iraq has survived two serious wars with Iran and Kuwait. The incursion in Kuwait, as you know, ended up with Operation Desert Storm. US forces and their allies exterminated Iraqi troops during the operation. The majority of killed soldiers had to be buried in mass graves. There are a lot of photographs and documents to prove the massacre that the USA arranged. It is noteworthy it is the evidence of Western sources, not Iraqi ones. Mass graves were practiced during the war with Iran too. The US army used the banned cassette bombs in their strikes against the Iraqi troops defending the Baghdad airport. Those bombs tore human bodies to pieces. The fallen soldiers of that battle were also buried in mass graves. However, Americans can say about those slaughtered bodies that it was Saddam's doing.

You regularly communicate with committee members in Amman. Have they developed a joint strategy to defend Saddam?

We coordinate our actions, of course. We actively work on the strategy, paying special attention to the following aspects. Firstly, a group of Iraqi attorneys needs to have an opportunity to prepare for the case completely. Secondly, all archive documents have to be analyzed in detail. Furthermore, attorneys need to have contacts with others, who would probably volunteer to help. It is extremely important attorneys should be highly-qualified specialists. Americans, however, do not wish to have Arab specialists in the process. There are a lot of experienced lawyers in the Arab world, though. They perfectly know international laws. 

As far as I can understand, there are no conditions for lawyers to work, and no one is going to create such conditions?

Yes, it is true. We still do not have materials about the prosecution. We know nothing about the reasons the tribunal used to bring charges against Saddam. In other words, the ground of the trial is not clear. If the Iraqi tribunal judges Hussein, it has to be guided by the Iraqi Penal Code. However, no one has pointed out any article of the code yet. The charges have been read out, but the tribunal has no right to bring them until they are complied with the Iraqi law. It is a very serious problem indeed, and there is only one way to solve it: the indictment needs to be coordinated with the Iraqi Penal Code.

What do you think Saddam can expect on the process?

Saddam Hussein has good perspectives, if the litigation is fair and if it is based on the Iraqi law. However, it is impossible to say the tribunal is legal. It was Paul Bremer, who ordered to establish the tribunal, although he was not authorized to issue such documents. Being the head of the occupation administration, Bremer should have established order in the conquered country to prepare it for elections. He had no right to organize the trial.

Bouchra Khalil was interviewed by Ivan Gorshkov

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Author`s name Olga Savka