WASHINGTON -- European editorial and other public comment were lavish with advice to the United States and the Iraqis Monday on how and where to bring Saddam Hussein to justice, and ways to capitalize on his capture.
There was broad consensus in the media that it was in everyone's best interest that Saddam should be tried by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. At the same time, there was pessimism that the Bush administration, which had refused to accept the U.N. International Criminal Court, would prod the Iraqis in that direction.
"There is no tradition of a serious judiciary in Iraq," argued the leading French newspaper Le Monde in its Monday editorial. "But does not the necessity to be exemplary rule out a trial in Baghdad with ad hoc Iraqi or international judges? Although the United States is opposed to international justice, it will (nonetheless) be doing the honorable thing to favor this option. For history."
El Pais, a top Spanish paper, said the world must do its best to see that "the dictator (Saddam Hussein) receives a fair, transparent trial, with all the legal guarantees for his defense." The satisfaction at his capture "must not lead to a rush to judgment culminating in a summary execution."
But Italian commentator Bernardo Valli, writing in La Repubblica, feels that Saddam Hussein will "in all probability" be tried in Iraq. Why? "Given that the United States refuses to recognize international tribunals and their right to judge U.S. military actions throughout the world, it is hard to see how the Americans will insist on an international tribunal (for Saddam)."
Valli also makes the point that the impression -- apparently unfounded, as it turns out -- that Saddam was masterminding resistance against the U.S.-led occupation had made him a hero in the Arab world. Not loved, certainly. But Saddam the elusive fighter was a source of Arab pride.
His capture without a fight caused humiliation, even anger, among Arabs, Valli wrote.
Outside Europe the media reported Saddam's capture, but with surprisingly little comment. The Chinese press quoted a routine comment from the foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao. He said China hoped that catching Saddam would be "conducive to the Iraqi people taking their destiny into their own hands, and to realizing peace and stability."
Papers in India, not by nature reticent in expressing their views, seemed on this occasion to take their cue from the puzzling reaction of Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. As reported in the India Daily, Sinha can hardly be said to have been bursting with suppressed excitement. "We have taken note that (Saddam) Hussein has been arrested in Iraq," he said. But did India welcome the news, he was asked. "It's only a question of taking note of a development," the minister replied carefully. "That's all."
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