November 15, 2007

Former Saddam Trial Judge Serves as Resource to C.U.

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“Democracy is not enough; we need to control democracy by the law,” said Juhi Hamadi Al-Saíedi, former chief investigative judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal. “There is a weak line between democracy and random [behavior], but the law is the border between them. Even when we’re talking about a traffic light … Each person should respect the law if they [would] like to succeed.”
This summer, Al-Saíedi came to Ithaca from Iraq as the Law School’s first Clarke Middle East Fellow after investigating cases against former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Tribunal is responsible for prosecuting acts of crimes against humanity, such as genocide, that were committed in Iraq between 1968 and 2003.
According to the University, the Clarke Middle East Fund brings scholars and others together to discuss, research and study current legal and policy issues facing the region. The Fund is administered through the Law School’s Clarke Center for International and Comparative Legal Studies.
Before Al-Saíedi arrived here at Cornell, tensions were high regarding his and his family’s safety. Several months into their time here, however, it seems like they could not be happier.
“The best place I’ve visited is Ithaca,” said Al-Saíedi. “I feel this is a small city and every one is like family. I feel very relaxed and happy … The biggest change for me has been the weather,” he said with a laugh.
Al-Saíedi moved to Ithaca with his wife and three sons, who are attending a local elementary school. He said that that none of the concerns that surrounded his arrival over the summer have lasted into the fall.
“He’s a delightful person,” said Prof. Larry Bush, law, Al-Saíedi’s primary point of contact at the Law School. “Before he came [here] many people had questions and concerns, and he was aware of that and very sympathetic and understanding of those concerns.”
“We had not had an occasion to develop the Clarke Middle East Fellowship before we invited Judge Ra’id to Cornell, so we did so in that context,” Bush said.
During his time as Clarke Middle East fellow, Al-Saíedi will have three years to conduct research and become as part of the Cornell community.
“I am working on a book on Saddam’s trial and Iraq,” Al-Saíedi said.
He added that he wants the book to focus on the situation in Iraq from a legal standpoint.
According to Al-Saíedi, his book will outline his hopes for his country, which include a system of legal democracy. Additionally, he plans to conduct research on international and criminal law by comparing the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Iraqi High Tribunal. In the mean time, he will be an important a resource for Cornell academics.
“He has been a central player either behind the scenes or at the forefront of major [historical events]” said Prof. David Patel, government. “He has phenomenal experience in one of the most important tribunals in the past half century … he is a phenomenal resource.”
Al-Saíedi plans to speak in Patel’s Government 100: Identity in Iraq.
Still, there are many plans for Al-Saíedi’s future at Cornell, but right now he is becoming acclimated to his new home in a new country.
“While [Al-Saíedi] is here, this semester he is not formally scheduled with any tasks at the Law School,” Bush said. “It’s an adjustment period.”
Al-Saíedi is studying English to work on his fluency and attending meetings and lectures to become better acquainted with Cornell. While enjoying his time here, his dream is to return to Iraq and help his country.
“My dream is to improve and advance my country and to serve my country when my country asks me,” Al-Saíedi said.
“The bottom line is that Cornell is home for [Al-Saíedi] at the moment and he can build a future from there,” Bush said.