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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Saddam trial should teach lesson in fairness

It's hard to get worked up over the fairness of a trial of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, but his U.S. lawyer makes a legitimate point.

Unlike American courts, the Iraqi court is combining civil and criminal prosecutions. That means witnesses' testimony is relevant not just to Mr. Hussein's criminal conduct and punishment, but to how much money the witness will receive as compensation for that conduct.

The procedure is little more than institutionalized bribery. If a witness provides no information or testifies in support of Mr. Hussein, she will receive no monetary reward. If she testifies against the former dictator, she stands to benefit.

The inherent problem with providing monetary incentives for those testifying in a criminal trial is one this country understands. Our nation deems the issue so important that it accepts tremendous inefficiencies rather than combine criminal and civil prosecutions. The duplicative civil trials against O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake are examples.

As stated by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who recently joined the defense team, witnesses have a personal monetary motive in making it seem that the execution of more than 140 Shiites at Dujail, for which Saddam and his co-defendants are on trial, was a terrible thing and that the witnesses lost a lot of money because of the alleged massacre.

Mr. Hussein deserves a bullet in the head rather than a trial, but what he deserves is not at issue. The trial is functionally a lesson to the Iraqi people of how due process works. If that lesson is to be effective, it must be done right.

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