Interview with Giovanni Di Stefano

L'avvocato Giovanni Di Stefano

Giovanni Di Stefano, 51 years old, an Italian originally from the Molise region, is one of the most famous Italian lawyers, known above all for his defence at the International Court of Justice of the Hague, of the Serbian ex- leader Slobodan Milosevic and at present for being one of the lawyers who defends Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad court proceedings. Giovanni Di Stefano usually lives in London (for this reason he is more familiar with the English language than with Italian), where he is also a businessman. In 1999, Di Stefano was arrested in Italia, following a mandate for his arrest issued in England, for financial offences allegedly committed during his stay in Serbia, and in 2001he was completely absolved: the lawyer, at that time, had said that it was all due to a political manoeuvre for the uncomfortable activities that he had to carry out, also considering that, so as to provoke his arrest, documents which had been presented to the Appeal Courts of Campobasso and Rome had been falsified (in Great Britain, in fact, court proceedings against a policeman were started regarding the falsification of documents). Giovanni Di Stefano has also given different reasons for the American war against Iraq in 2003, during which the international right was violated also due to economical matters: the decision of Saddam’s government to apply the exchange of money into euro and not dollars. Lawyer Di Stefano, who in December has been to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein, furthermore has recently affirmed that his client, from a psycho-physical point of view, is not very well indeed, but he manages to keep up his own strength and balance. However, lawyer Di Stefano is also well-known at high levels of the American administration, from which he has recently received a legal assignment. However, he has also explained this to the International Legal Studio which he presides, saying that this new assignment does not clash with his role as the lawyer of the ex- Iraqi leader, quite the opposite it strengthens it. In fact, in this interview, the same Giovanni Di Stefano states that the two assignments which he is working on at the same time could conceal a political manoeuvre by the Bush administration so as to avoid that Saddam Hussein’s death sentence, be effectively carried out. So, the American authorities, who have the legal custody of Saddam, could not logically do anything else but respect the success of Giovanni Di Stefano in trying to avoid the execution of the ex-Iraqi president. All of this is also due to the fact that Saddam is still very popular on Iraqi territory (only for 50% of the population Saddam is considered to be a criminal, whilst more than 90% is in favour of the withdrawal from the country of the Anglo-American troops and their allies), and his execution could cause a twenty-year conflict in the already turbulent Middle East. Not by chance, amongst the many contrasting opinions regarding the hanging of Saddam, there are also those made public by Tony Blair (who has slightly changed his original opinion of such), by the regional Kurdish government in North Iraq, by the very Kurdish president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. Furthermore, Giovanni Di Stefano states similarities as well as differences between the case of Slobodan ("Slobo") Milosevic, who died recently at the Hague, and that of Saddam Hussein, beyond that of illustrating a few reasons concerning the iniquity of the way in which the court proceedings of the latter have been carried out (for whom it would have proved less dangerous for court proceedings to be held in Europe and even in the United States, if with Iraqi judges and with the necessary guarantees for his safety were to be given), controlled by the same forces which created war and occupation, yet at the same time remaining hopeful for the possibility that, also for political realism, the execution of his client can be avoided.

1) Lawyer Di Stefano, you are directing a International Legal Studio and you are the official council for the defence of Saddam Hussein, whilst, at the same time, you have received an assignment from the present U.S. Bush administration. What exactly does this job entail? Do you think that you have received this assignment due to great respect for your work? And, in your opinion, do you believe that your possible success regarding Saddam's case will cause you to be respected also by the White House?

The United States District Court of Columbia appointed me to accept service for Saddam Hussein which is a ‘backdoor’ way for the Bush Administration to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not executed at least for the moment. The actual per se execution of Saddam Hussein would not only cause a bloodbath in Iraq but inflame and already volotile Middle East. The civil case in Washington DC can be used and is being used to ensuure that the US do not deliver Saddam Hussein to Iraqi for execution. Does that mean that the Bush Administration has faith in me? They better have faith in themselves and their justice system more!

2) You were a personal advisor and then council for the defence of the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic and now you are Saddam Hussein's lawyer. Are these cases different entailing different strategies, or similar to each other?

The allegations in brief are familiar but Saddam and Slobo were and remain different men save that they BOTH have an undying love for their country. Milosevic was tried before a properly constituted court whereas Saddam has a circus of a court that in non compliant with even the basic of legal standards.

3) Lawyer, you are fighting in order to stop the hanging of the ex-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein: how do you believe that you will achieve this goal? Would it possible, for example, so as to definitively avoid it, to deliver Saddam to a third country with greater guarantees of neutrality and where the death penalty is not enforced?

The Geneva Convention allows an ex occupying force to maintain custody and/or execution of an indicted person as for example the case of HESS [The successor of Hitler, who paid the life imprisonment in Germany, note of editing]. Saddam will not be executed. If his sentence of imprisonment is confirmed he will serve that in one of three countries [The reference is to Iraq, U.S.A. and United Kingdom, note of editing].

4) In the eventuality of a Court of Justice outside Iraq, could the involvement of Arab and Kurd lawyers also be possible, so as to involve the original country of the accused in this matter?

The case would have been far more credible if it was heard out of Iraq where at least it would have been SAFE. It would have mattered not the jurists or the judges. Al Maghari from Lybia [One of the agents of Gheddafi, accused of an attack to a civil airplane in the skies of Scoltland, crashed in 1988, killing also some inhabitants of the little town Lockerbie, note of editing] had a ‘fair’ trial in The Hague with Scottish Judges. Saddam should have been tried in Italy, UK, Germany, even the US with Iraqi Judges. At least the trial would have been transparent and fair. Instead it was like a circus.

5) In your opinion, were the court proceedings held in Baghdad iniquitous? And if so, why?

It was by no means a proper or fair process for the reasons stated.

6) How many lawyers does Saddam have, and what are their nationalities?

Myself and one other lawyer as my colleague (myself Italian) my colleague USA and in Iraq Khalil from the Iraqi Bar. There are other advisors from Jordan and Mr Clarke from the USA.

[This article was published on these Italian journals: Caserta24ore, Deasport, Corriere di Aversa e Giugliano, Rinascita, Ciaoeuropa, and on the Kurdish newspaper RNN (Rojname News Network, journal writed in nine languages)]

Antonella Ricciardi , 7th December 2006