Sunday, November 27, 2005

Victor's Justice - Eichmann & Hussein

"There will be more charges filed against him, and more charges after that, if needed... he has committed tremendous crimes."

So says a Bush administration official, at least according to Drudge. But is this really news? Should we care? From the legal perspective, there's no reason why Hussein shouldn't be charged for all the crimes he committed. If the first results in a death sentance, filing more would be a waste of resources. And if he's innocent of these charges, so be it, there are others. If innocent of all, he should walk away, if not innocent of all, he should hang/be jailed, etc.

At the same time, there's a feeling that something is wrong, that the state is prosecuting until they get a conviction. Which they are, and in this case, what's the problem? And if it wasn't illegal at the time (Hussein made the laws), how could it be illegal now? On this last point, the Eichmann verdict is worth reading:
...The legislation with retrospective effect, here dealt with, has not created a new crime....and it cannot therefore be said that the person who commits the act of which the appellant is accused did not have a criminal intent...because he did not and could not know that the act he was doing was a criminal act. On the contrary, it stands to reason that he who has actually committed such an act knew that an act of this kind is a crime. [emphasis added]
Additionally, if you look at it as victor's justice, that a message is being sent, it becomes more clear. As Eric Posner mentioned in his Nuremberg post, and as I recounted here, these trials are to send a message. Such actions are not beyond justice. Will it matter? Would a dictator stop and wonder that he may be overthrown and thus should not commit these horrid acts? Probably not. But that's not the point.

Note: The full Eichmann verdict, including complete transcripts, is available here.