By Dominic Ponsford
Sun executives have shrugged off the suggestion that Saddam Hussein
will sue after the paper published pictures of the jailed dictator in
But according to legal experts, Hussein does have a case for breach
of privacy. And he could use the British no win, no fee system to
pursue News International for free.
The pictures, taken inside
Saddam’s cell at a secret location in Iraq, were supplied to The Sun by
US “military sources”. The US military has already announced it will
“aggressively” investigate the leak.
Lawyers claiming to act for
Saddam have already said they intend to launch lawsuits against The
Sun. Managing editor Graham Dudman said: “It’s not even come up as a
topic for serious debate.
There are doubtless publicity-seeking lawyers out there who will jump on any bandwagon they can find.
idea that the butcher of Baghdad – a man responsible for the deaths of
300,000 men, women and children – is suing us for breach of his human
rights, is laughable.”
But international media law expert Mark
Stephens said: “He does have a case, although the damages would
belikely to be very low. There’s no public interest defence in this set
of photographs, as there was when there were photos to show him
arrested and taken into custody.”
Stephens said the photos also
breached the Geneva Convention which, although applying to Governments
rather than newspapers, gave The Sun a moral duty not to publish. He
said: “Saddam paraded Flt Lt John Nichol and the human shields on TV
and now we are no better than him.”
On the moral issue of whether
to publish the Saddam photos, Dudman said: “I doubt any editor worth
their salt, once presented with these photos, wouldn’t publish them
once they had established, as we had, that they were genuine.”
Saddam pictures were syndicated around the world but not sold to
another UK publication. On Thursday evening last week, The Sun sent
legal letters to rival newspapers and other media warning them not to
steal the pictures by scanning them from the paper. The warning
appeared to be heeded, since any follow-up stories were illustrated
using the full Sun front page, which is permitted under copyright rules.
At the time of going to press, The Sun had not been contacted by lawyers acting for Saddam.