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16 November 2005

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, today called on the Iraqi Government to launch an independent investigation into the recent assassination of two lawyers involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein.

“An independent investigation is essential because these killings have huge implications for efforts to establish the rule of law in Iraq”, said Mr. Alston, who is also a law professor at New York University.

The victims, Sadoum al-Janabi and Adel Muhammad al-Zubaidi, represented defendants at the Iraqi Supreme Criminal Tribunal charged with crimes against humanity. Al-Janabi was found with two bullet wounds to the head after being abducted from his office by armed men on October 20, the day after the trial began. Al-Zubaidi was killed November 8 in a drive-by shooting that also injured another defense lawyer, Thamer al-Khuzaie.

Mr. Alston said he was concerned at allegations that the Interior Ministry might have been involved. He said the information he has received provides no clear evidence of the Ministry’s involvement but also no grounds for excluding that possibility.

“When allegations call into question the impartiality of the Government, and when so much hinges on the facts, an independent investigation is the only way to uphold the rule of law”, Mr. Alston said. “This is clearly a situation in which a failure to undertake a convincing investigation will have major negative implications for all that the Government is trying to achieve”.

Mr. Alston said the killings were deeply troubling.

“When defense lawyers are murdered, the rule of law is doubly at stake”, he said. “Human rights law requires that all murders be investigated in a credible manner. Moreover, defense attorneys are critical to a fair trial, and their systematic assassination threatens the entire process”.