Thursday, April 08, 2004

I Know I'm Being a Pain in the Ass but Somebody's Got to Do It Department

Yesterday's New York Times -- which I saw only at random, not following it much anymore -- carried a page A9 article that I just read, and that I think is extremely interesting in at least one aspect. Doubtless in many more.

Titled "Iraqis Meet With War Crimes Trial Experts," and filed from the Hague by Marlise Simons, the article is framed as an update on how the new, post-Saddam Iraqi regime is dealing, legally, with Saddam Hussein himself.

Everyone who is not totally naive understands that the Iraqis' decision not to allow Hussein to be tried in an international court, whoever actually made it, was strongly influenced by the CPA, i.e., the Bush administration. Reason being that were the case to be tried by independent, non-Iraqi, experienced judges, well versed in international law, many unkind facts about the United States' previous involvement with Hussein -- and in particular the involvement of several members of the current administration, including Donald Rumsfeld -- would be likely to emerge.

Instead, then, Hussein will be tried in Iraq, by Iraqi judges, with little if any experience at all in international law, and picked by the Iraqi Governing Council -- with the CPA looking over their shoulder. (The statute creating the tribunal was itself written and promulgated by the CPA, Dec. 10, 2003. Many organizations and experts in similar matters made suggestions to the CPA on how to set up such a court and warned against some of the pitfalls in doing so. For example see this Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Iraqi Governing Council on ‘The Statute of the Iraqi Special Tribunal.’)

To return, though, to Marlise Simons's article: From the beginning:

"Ten Iraqi judges and prosecutors preparing to try Saddam Hussein and members of his government have quietly met here with veterans of international war crimes tribunals to draw on their experience of judging atrocities in the Balkans, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, according to the Iraqis and other participants.

"Interviews with court officials based here and with Iraqi participants in the meetings, held late last month, outline some of the Iraqis' deepest concerns and their state of readiness.

"The Iraqis said trials were not likely to start until early next year and emphasized that Mr. Hussein would not be the first to be tried.

"The Iraqis were led by Salem Chalabi, the coordinator of the tribunal for Iraqi war crimes, who is a nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress."

Now, six more paragraphs go by, and then we get:

"In Amsterdam, the Iraqis met with members of the international courts dealing with Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, East Timor and Sierra Leone. In The Hague, they visited the new International Criminal Court, which Washington opposes, and the Yugoslav tribunal.

" 'It was all extremely useful,' said Mr. Chalabi, who has practiced law in a London firm."

Hold it right there. Yes, Salem Chalabi -- who, as Simons duly points out, is the nephew of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi -- "has practiced law in a London firm." But what *kind* of firm? A firm that deals in human rights, or international criminal law? No. He worked at a firm called Clifford Chance, which according to its site has the following "areas of expertise": Antitrust, Banking and Finance, Capital Markets, Construction, Corporate, E-commerce, Insurance, Intellectual Property, International Trade, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Maritime, Project Finance, Public Policy, Public-Private Partnership, Real Estate, Tax, Pensions and Employment, and Transport.

I looked at the descriptions of these areas, and I can assure you, none of them have anything to do with the type of case that needs to be brought against Saddam Hussein. According to the Guardian, in fact, Chalabi's specialization at Clifford Chance was *capital markets.*

So why didn't Marlise Simons mention that in her article? And what is he doing "coordinating" the tribunal for Iraqi war crimes?

I don't know, but I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that he is also the founder of something called the Iraqi International Law Group, whose enigmatically slim Web site bills the group as "The Professional Gateway to the New Iraq." Set up in June 2003, the IILG is "taking the lead in bringing private sector investment and experience to the New Iraq."

An article by Brian Whitaker in the Guardian, dated Sept. 24, 2003, points out that the IILG Web site "is not registered in Salem Chalabi's name but in the name of Marc Zell, whose address is given as Suite 716, 1800 K Street, Washington. That is the address of the Washington office of Zell, Goldberg &Co, which claims to be 'one of Israel's fastest-growing business-oriented law firms,' and the related FANDZ International Law Group.

"The unusual name 'FANDZ' was concocted from 'F and Z,' the Z being Marc Zell and the F being Douglas Feith. The two men were law partners until 2001, when Feith took up his Pentagon post as undersecretary of defence for policy."

Is this sounding fishy to you?