Iraqi legal experts warned of the huge difficulties ahead in finding decisive evidence of Saddam Hussein's guilt in crimes committed by his regime in Iraq.
Much of the international community has been debating whether Saddam could face the death penalty for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But the experts said at a Washington meeting organized by the American Enterprise Institute that any trial of Saddam could simply get bogged down over the lack of evidence.
"It is one thing to say what we all know about what Saddam did. But it's another to prove it in a court of law," warned Kanan Makiya, founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation, one of the groups helping to draw up a new Iraqi constitution.
Because "we don't have a smoking gun to convict Saddam. We will need witnesses, documents," he said.
The foundation is gathering and analyzing documents from various parts of the Iraqi regime, including the intelligence services, police and army.
Some six million pages, most signed by the former Iraqi leader and his close deputies over the three decades of his regime have been collected by the foundation.
According to Hassan Mneimneh, an official at an Iraqi research and documentation center at Harvard University, "Saddam was shielded."
"We have here a structure of oppression with layers of intermediates (while) he issued only general statements, limiting himself to a boring but non compromising rhetoric.
"He believed it was necessary to protect himself," Mneimneh added.
So, the experts said, it might be easier for example to charge Ali Hassan Al-Majid, dubbed "Chemical Ali", whose capture was announced August 21, than Saddam Hussein.
"We have many smoking guns with regards to Ali Hassan Majid's responsibility in very serious crimes committed in Iraq," said Kanan Makiya. "Saddam is a much more difficult case."
According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), 100,000 Kurds were killed or disappeared in Kurdistan by Al-Majid between 1987 and 1988. Iraqi Kurds accuse him of ordering a gas attack that killed about 5,000 people in Halabja.
Al-Majid also led repression in 1991 against Shiites in southern Iraq at the end of the first Gulf War.
Neil Kritz, an international law expert and one of the architects of the Russian draft constitution (1990-1991), said that international law should be brought to bear on the Iraqi former dictator in attempting to bring justice to bear.
"International law recognizes a top commander responsibility. We need to build the case in showing the nature of a system killing a large number of people," Kritz said. "If you can demonstrate that the ultimate commander was aware of the crimes, it is valuable in terms of international law."
On the ground meanwhile three US soldiers were wounded in separate rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq's northern capital Wednesday, Iraqi security sources said.
The 101st Airborne Division's public affairs section had no information on the incidents when contacted late Wednesday.
Iraqi police said two US soldiers were wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack Wednesday morning in the city. The Americans returned fire, wounding one attacker who fled the area, said police Lieutenant Haytham Mohammad Jamal, who helped search for the suspect.
Mahmoud Shaker Mohammad, 36, a shopkeeper in the area, said the attackers fled on a motorcycle at about 9:00 am (0600 GMT).
Just over six hours later, eight mortar rounds landed at an American position near the University of Mosul, wounding one US soldier and damaging a Humvee vehicle, said Mazen Khalil Jassem of the Facilities Protection Service (FPS), which guards government buildings and facilities.
Musaab Mohammad Sobhi, a witness, said he saw two men get out of a car and fire the mortars.
Nabil Siruan, a Kurdish militiaman helping to protect the area, said one US soldier was wounded and a Humvee damaged.
Four Mosul university students were shot Wednesday during a second consecutive day of demonstrations in support of Saddam Hussein, police said. Shots rang out as the protesters approached an FPS post, an officer said.
On Tuesday a policeman was killed and another seriously wounded by drive-by gunmen after a demonstration by about 1,000 university students, police said.
The US military announced on Sunday that Saddam Hussein had been captured the previous night hiding in a hole near Tikrit, south of here.
© 2003 AFP