But whether that opportunity would be successfully grasped was open to serious doubt, the HRW report said. Particular concern focused on fears that the tribunal's procedures would prove to be neither impartial nor independent, defence lawyers were at a crippling disadvantage, and the outcome had already been grossly prejudiced by Iraqi and US politicians.
Public statements by, among others, Jalal Talabani, Saddam's successor as Iraq's president, had rendered the notion of a fair trial all but absurd, the report suggested. "Saddam Hussein is a war criminal and he deserves to be executed 20 times a day for his crimes against humanity," Mr Talabani told Iraqi television last month.
Pressure on the court and its officials, some of whom have been replaced for apparently partisan reasons, does not emanate solely from Iraqis. Although the US had sought to avoid the appearance of Nuremberg-style "victor's justice", Sonya Sceats, a legal expert at Chatham House in London, said: "The politics surrounding the establishment of the court have raised particular concerns about the level of American influence."
The US Congress provided $128m (£73m) for investigations and prosecutions of Ba'athist officials. The US-established regime crimes liaison office has played a leading role in interviewing "high-value detainees" and preparing evidence. Britain has provided £1.3m, but other EU countries have held back, partly because of their opposition to the tribunal's likely resort to the death penalty.
"Irrespective of its veracity, the perception of the court as a disguised vehicle for US retribution is likely to colour Saddam's defence," Ms Sceats said. "He has already insisted that [it] will be a political show trial. 'I do not want to make you feel uneasy,' he told the judge during proceedings in July 2004, 'but you know this is all theatre by Bush.'"
Coalition officials point out that the postwar Iraqi justice system was incapable of mounting trials of this magnitude without outside assistance.
But critics maintain that is one of many reasons why an international tribunal on neutral ground would have been a better option. Saddam's alleged crimes against humanity were essentially international in nature, they argue, including attacks on Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as native Kurds and Shias.
Yes, you read that correctly. The poor Nazis were railroaded by "victor's justice." Socialists protect their own.