A Kuwaiti military tribunal Sunday exhibited surprising barbarism in the way it convicted six people of collaborating with the Iraqi occupation. They even gave one Iraqi man a 15-year jail sentence for the single offense of wearing a Saddam Hussein T-shirt. More than 300 people, mostly foreigners will eventually be brought to trial, with the most serious cases resulting in the death penalty.
Clearly Kuwait represents a country hungry for revenge. It is to be expected that Kuwaitis would be angered by the the way their country and people were ravaged by Iraqi invaders, but that does not give them license to accuse, try and sentence people in a completely arbitrary manner.Defense attorneys complained that allegedly incriminating evidence was not made public, that defendants were denied the right to face their accusers - and that confessions were extracted from some of them through torture. Charges were rarely specific and defendants were kept in a metal cage.
Even worse from an American point of view, martial law declared after the gulf war provides for no higher court of appeal.
Since the liberation of Kuwait, the Western democracies have been urging the emirate to move in the direction of democracy and justice. Now these trials in the opulent Palace of Justice are being closely scrutinized by the U.S. and British embassies, and observers are not happy with what they see.
In fact, ever since the Iraqis were driven out of the country in late February, Kuwaitis have been guilty of torturing and sometimes killing people suspected of collaboration. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of Palestinians and other foreign residents have been arbitrarily detained and beaten in revenge attacks by vigilante groups and security forces.
The Western democracies, with President Bush leading the way, should apply major pressure to the government of Kuwait to deal with accused collaborators with proven methods of fairness. Anything less would make the the liberation of Kuwait a sham.