Iraq has sacked the controversial Chief Judge in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein, dealing another blow to the legal proceedings against the ousted president.
"I can confirm (Judge Abdullah al-Ameri) has been removed," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told the agency on Tuesday, adding the decision was made on the grounds he was biased towards defendants.
"The government of Iraq feels the judge is no longer neutral as could be seen when he described Saddam Hussein as not being a 'dictator'," Dabbagh said, referring to a statement made by Ameri during the trial five days ago.
In reaching their decision to sack Ameri, the Shiite-led cabinet had also taken into consideration "a big uprising from the people, who feel that there is no longer any neutrality for the victims," said Dabbagh.
He said the law that established the High Tribunal empowers the cabinet "to transfer any judge or prosecutor to the high judicial commission" if they are not fulfilling their duty.
But international legal expert Nehal Bhuta of the New York-based Human Rights Watch slammed the Iraqi Cabinet, saying the judge's removal was "a blatant violation of the independence of the court".
"The statement of Dabbagh reflects that the government has not adequately understood the independency of the judiciary as a whole," Bhuta told the agency by telephone from New York.
"This act jeopardises the integrity of the court and damages prospects of justice for the victims themselves," added Bhuta, who has been tracking legal proceedings against Saddam since they began.