I was concerned to see Stephen Jakobi of Fair Trials Abroad recently call the trial of Saddam a 'show trial'.
His point was that it is inconceivable that Saddam will be acquitted and that the trial is being conducted so that justice is seen to be done more than to establish the facts. The same could have been said of the Nuremburg trials and, in fairness, Jakobi conceded this.
But then, what is the alternative? Churchill favoured simply shooting the leading Nazis. It was Truman who insisted on trials.
But the real problem with the phrase 'show trial' is that it is forever associated Stalin's purges from the 1930s. And these were significantly different from either Nurmeburg or the current trial of Saddam. Stalin's victims, like Saddam's were mostly innocent. Saddam, like Goering and Speer, is guilty.
There certainly are procedural difficulties conducting a trial for someone whom everyone knows is guilty. Imagine trying to put together a jury pool for Saddam that did not include friends or relatives of anyone he murdered.
But Jakobi still needs to be careful about his use of the phrase 'show trial'.