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ndependent probe into Saddam trial murder needed

UN rights expert calls for independent probe into Saddam trial lawyers’ murder

A United Nations human rights expert today has called on the Iraqi Government to launch an independent investigation into the recent assassination of two lawyers involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein, saying he was concerned at allegations that the Interior Ministry might have been involved.

“An independent investigation is essential because these killings have huge implications for efforts to establish the rule of law in Iraq,” the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Philip Alston, said.

He said the information he has received provides no clear evidence of the Ministry's involvement but also no grounds for excluding that possibility.

“When allegations call into question the impartiality of the Government, and when so much hinges on the facts, an independent investigation is the only way to uphold the rule of law,” he added. “This is clearly a situation in which a failure to undertake a convincing investigation will have major negative implications for all that the Government is trying to achieve.”

Sadoum al-Janabi and Adel Muhammad al-Zubaidi represented defendants at the Iraqi Supreme Criminal Tribunal charged with crimes against humanity. Mr. Al-Janabi was found with two bullet wounds to the head after being abducted from his office by armed men on 20 October, the day after the trial began. Mr. Al-Zubaidi was killed on 8 November in a drive-by shooting that also injured another defence lawyer, Thamer al-Khuzaie.

“When defence lawyers are murdered, the rule of law is doubly at stake,” Mr. Alston said he said. “Human rights law requires that all murders be investigated in a credible manner. Moreover, defence attorneys are critical to a fair trial, and their systematic assassination threatens the entire process.”

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the UN Commission on Human Rights and report back to it.

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