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Iraq

May 21, 2005

Lawyers give split opinions on the strength of lawsuit

LEGAL opinion was divided last night over whether Saddam Hussein could successfully sue The Sun.

The Geneva Conventions apply only to states, but he could claim that his privacy was invaded under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at Finer Stephens Innocent, said. He could also seek an injunction barring further publication of the photographs and damages for distress. However, any damages awarded would be minimal, Mr Stephens said.

Their case could be strengthened by a decision by the Court of Appeal earlier this week inthe battle between Hello! and rival magazine OK over its publication of photographs of the wedding of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The court then incorporated into English law the obligation to protect an individual from an unjustified invasion of private life, recognised by the European Court of Human Rights last year in a suit by Princess Caroline of Monaco over photographs of her in public places.

However, it was very unlikely that any lawsuit launched by Saddam’s lawyers would get off the ground, other lawyers said. He would find it difficult to deposit a large sum of money with the court as security for legal costs, a traditional requirement because he is held in custody outside the UK, according to Dan Tench, a partner at Olswang, a media law firm.

Korieh Duodu, a media barrister at David Price, said that The Sun would be able to argue that its story was valid because it cast light on the dictator’s treatment in custody. The newspaper would also have to prove that public interest was served by publishing the photos.

Although lawyers believe that the photographs breach the Geneva Conventions, Saddam cannot sue the US Government because they do not allow victims to sue a state, according to Maurice Mendelson, QC, of Blackstone Chambers.

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