The trial of Saddam Hussein was so flawed that its verdict is unsound, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch says. The former Iraqi leader was sentenced to death on 5 November after being convicted of crimes against humanity.
But HRW said it had documented "serious administrative, procedural and substantive legal defects" that meant he did not get a fair trial. The US-installed puppet Iraqi government has dismissed the report, saying that the trial was both "just and fair".
Saddam Hussein has two more weeks to lodge an appeal against the verdict - but his lawyer claims he has been blocked from doing so. Chief defence lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi told the BBC his team had been prevented from filing appeal papers. Under Iraqi law it must be done within a month of sentencing.
HRW based its scathing assessment on extensive observation of court proceedings, and interviews with judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and court administrators involved.
Three defence lawyers were murdered, three judges left the five-member panel and the original chief judge was replaced. Defence lawyers boycotted proceedings but HRW said court-appointed counsel that took their place lacked adequate training in international law. In addition, important documents were not given to defence lawyers in advance, no written transcript was kept and paperwork was lost, said HRW.
The defence was also prevented from cross-examining witnesses and the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government was guilty of influencing the independence of the judges, the report said, to the extent that the first chief judge resigned.
"Under such circumstances the soundness of the verdict is questionable," HRW concludes.