Unpacking Show Trials: Situating the Trial of Saddam Hussein

36 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2006

See all articles by Jeremy Peterson

Jeremy Peterson

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California

Abstract

The term show trial surfaces frequently in discussions of the trial of Saddam Hussein, but the term's meaning is not clear. This Article proposes that show trial be defined by the presence of two essential elements: a heightened probability of the defendant's conviction, and a focus on the audience outside of the courtroom rather than on the defendant. Both elements are matters of degree, and so show trials come in varieties: some involve near-certain conviction, but a smaller amount of attention to the outside audience, others the reverse. While features of a judicial forum designed to increase the likelihood of a defendant's conviction are probably always undesirable from the viewpoint of liberal justice, a focus on an audience beyond the courtroom may not always be so. Some characteristics can be identified that are helpful in differentiating show trials from non-show trials. When assessed for these characteristics, the trial of Mr. Hussein falls in the show trial category, possessing characteristics that suggest a strong element of increased probability of the defendant's conviction, and also characteristics suggesting a focus on the audience beyond the courtroom. Considering the degree to which these two essential elements are present, the trial of Mr. Hussein belongs in a moderate position when compared to other high-profile show trials.

Keywords: Show Trial, Iraqi Special Tribunal, IST, Hussein, Osiel, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Political Trial, Arendt

JEL Classification: K34, K40, K30, K49, K14, N41, N46

Suggested Citation

Peterson, Jeremy D., Unpacking Show Trials: Situating the Trial of Saddam Hussein. Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 48, p. 257, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=937829

Jeremy D. Peterson (Contact Author)

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California ( email )

501 I St # 4200
Sacramento, CA 95814
United States

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