June 22, 2005 – Iraqâ€™s Justice Minister, Abdel Hussein Shandal, accused US officials of trying to slow down the questioning of Saddam Hussein in order to hide embarrassing information about previous US financial and military support for the former Iraqi dictator.
"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide," Shandal told the Associated Press Tuesday. "There should be transparency and there should be frankness, but there are secrets that, if revealed, won't be in the interest of many countries."
"Who was helping Saddam all those years," Shandal asked, rhetorically referring to US support for the dictator during the 1980s, a decade during which Hussein is accused of committing numerous crimes, including the gassing of Kurdish cities and using chemical weapons against Iran during his eight-year war with the neighboring country.
Despite the slow interrogation process, the justice minister said he was confident that a special Iraqi tribunal, which was established by the now defunct US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, would be able to put Saddam on trial before the end of the year.
"This trial will be accomplished within 2005 -- and this will only be in Iraqi courts," Shandal told the AP.
The tribunal recently released a videotape of Hussein being questioned, but the tape did not include any audio of the session. Officials with the tribunal said they are still interrogating him and have not set a date for his trial to begin.
US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has previously criticized the tribunal for lacking "explicit guarantees against using confessions extracted under torture and a requirement that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Because Saddam and other suspects convicted by the tribunal may face the death penalty, the United Nations cannot provide technical assistance.
HRW also warns that the tribunal does not require that judges and prosecutors have relevant experience trying cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and it bars international experts on crimes against humanity from participating as prosecutors.