Saddam Hussein's rights have been "violated" in the legal process following his capture, one of his top American lawyers said Tuesday on the eve of the deposed Iraqi leader's trial opening on charges of ordering the massacre of 143 countrymen two decades ago.
Ex-U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark also cited reports by international human rights groups, like the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and the Britain-based Amnesty International, which questioned if Saddam will receive a fair trial.
"Among the fundamental human rights that have been violated for almost two years are right to equality of arms, to a lawyer of his own choosing, access to facilities to prepare his defense, and access to a proper constituted court to challenge," according to a written statement issued by Clark, one of nearly a dozen international lawyers on Saddam's defense team.
"These rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that has been ratified by Iraq and the United States," he added.
Saddam and his co-defendants will stand trial Wednesday before the Iraqi Special Tribunal for allegedly ordering the 1982 massacre in Dujail, a predominantly Shiite Muslim town north of the Iraqi capital, after a failed assassination attempt against the toppled president.
The defendants face the death penalty if convicted, but have the right to appeal.
The trial is expected to be the first of about a dozen involving crimes against humanity committed by Saddam and his regime's henchmen during his 23-year rule. These include the 1988 gassing of up to 5,000 Kurds in Halabja and the bloody 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising in the south after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, according to the AP.
Clark referred to a Sunday Human Rights Watch report, which said the Iraqi Special Tribunal "runs the risk of violating international standards for fair trials."
Amnesty also said earlier this year that the tribunal's statutes are "not consistent with international law."
Clark served as attorney general under the late U.S. President Lyndon Johnson for three years in the 1960s. He is a staunch anti-war opponent who has met Saddam several times during the last 15 years. He was considered a friend of Iraq under Saddam when the United Nations imposed sanctions on Baghdad following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.