By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Organizers said spectator turnout lower than expected
President George W. Bush was "found guilty" on two counts of war crimes in a mock trial held yesterday at the Alumni Plaza.
During a week of indictments plaguing White House officials, law students simulated what would happen if the International Criminal Court tried Bush for crimes made during the war on Iraq and for allowing abuse of war prisoners by the U.S. military.
The debate, titled "George W. Bush Goes On Trial," was held from noon to 2 p.m. in front of the Alumni Plaza as part of a series sponsored by the debate club, said Tawfik Maudah, the club's president.
For the setup of the trial, Bush was charged with four counts of war crimes as defined by the court's Rome Statute and the Geneva Convention, said Ryan Newburn, a third-year law student and the defense attorney in the case.
After the attorneys spoke and answered questions by the audience, the panel of a judge and justices found Bush guilty of the act of a war of aggression and the failure to properly prohibit torture, Newburn said.
Joel Feinman, a third year-law student and the prosecutor of the mock trial, said in reality Bush could never be tried because of laws regarding jurisdiction, but organizers decided to forego those issues during the debate in order to determine whether Bush truly committed any crimes.
"Just because the court can't exercise jurisdiction (on someone), doesn't mean they're not guilty of a crime," Feinman said.
Gosha Potega, a third-year law student, said the debate was "excellent," but she was undecided on her response to the verdict.
"I can't say Saddam Hussein and his regime weren't detrimental to his people, but there should have been more mediation and negotiation," Potega said. "It was a difficult decision (the Bush administration) made."
Like Potega, more than 100 students sat on the grass or stood near the plaza throughout the debate, but Maudah said he wants to raise the standard so many more students participate.
"(The turnout) was not impressive or at least not what I thought it should be," said Maudah, a philosophy senior. "We have 30,000 students and 150 show up. That's not good."
Maudah said he was frustrated with students who are silent and uninformed on political issues, which he said the Arizona Daily Wildcat and other media could cover better.
"If this were a bikini show, it would be front page," Maudah said.
The debate club sponsors any group that wants to organize an event, and Maudah said he hopes groups take advantage of that until such discussions become the norm.
"I want thousands of people to show up here because this is a university," Maudah said, "and if we don't have discussions and heated debate here, then where else will we do it?"