Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saddam judge flees to seek asylum in the U.K.

Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman, who headed the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal in Saddam Hussein's trial has fled Iraq to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. The 65-year old judge arrived in the U.K. on a visitor's visa. A member of the Kurdish minority in Iraq, he is seeking asylum because he fears for the safety of himself and his family. He sentenced Saddam to death when he was found guilty of crimes against humanity, and also sentenced two of Saddam's top aides to death by hanging.

During the trial a defense lawyer and another judge were murdered. Therefore, many would say that Abdel-Rahman has a legitimate fear. However, his arrival in the United Kingdom has put the British government in a percarious position, especially as far as painting a safe picture of Iraq is concerned. This can also be linked to what Mr. Trebilcock said in his lecture--that safety in Iraq is far from certain. There is a large amount of internal stability that plagues the nation.

Anyone claiming asylum in the UK must be able to demonstrate that he or she has a "well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Therefore, the system is rather similar to the one that operates in the United States. The issue at hand is whether Abdel-Rahman and his family fit into one of the above categories. It is possible to construct a social group such as "persons who took part in Saddam Hussein's trial and who played a role in awarding him the death sentence." I wonder if he could use political opinion to his advantage as well. As far as his family is concerned, there have been cases, at least in the United States where family has been considered to be a social group such as the Matter of Navas v. INS, 217 F. 3d 646, 658 (9th Cir. 2000).

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