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For an International Trial of Saddam Hussein

Now that Saddam Hussein has been captured, the world's attention has turned to his trial. Should Saddam be tried by Iraqis in Iraq, or should he face an international tribunal? The forthcoming conference on democracy, human rights and the role of the International Criminal Court in Yemen on January 10-12 will provide a forum to debate these questions.

It is, of course, certain that Saddam Hussein will not escape trial for the extra-judicial, extra-legal and summary executions, torture, and systematic persecution of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that marked his decades of murderous misrule. However, the aim of his trial should be not only to bring to justice the dictator and his accomplices, but also to foster national reconciliation through the affirmation by Iraqis of universal principles such as non-discrimination, fairness, and transparency.

For years, Iraq has only known the brutal laws of force and intimidation. If judging Saddam Hussein and his regime is to become a cornerstone in the building of a free, democratic, and reconciled Iraq, then the US, as the leader of the coalition that ousted him, should do everything in its power to pursue this opportunity and set a very high standard of justice.

President George W. Bush has stated that he would "work with Iraqis to develop a way to try [Saddam Hussein] that will withstand international scrutiny." The best way to address that scrutiny and avoid accusations of "victor's justice" is to involve other international players in the exercise.