The image of Saddam Hussein being hauled before a court to face trial for monstrous crimes is a satisfying one. At last, this brutal dictator is where he belongs - in the dock. But grave doubts remain about the ability of the Iraqi legal system to deliver justice rather than simply revenge. And Hussein's resilient courtroom performance gave a taste of the problems which lie ahead. The first glimpses of Hussein the defendant might have encouraged us to believe that the figure who struck fear into the hearts of Iraqis for 26 years was a shadow of his former self. Certainly, he was in better shape than when last seen in public seven months ago. Then, he appeared as a bedraggled and shabby figure dragged from his hiding place - a hole in the ground. How the mighty had fallen. In court, he cut a much smarter figure. His beard had been trimmed and the former dictator wore a smart suit. But he had clearly aged, lost weight, and appeared tired. Appearances, though, can be deceptive. Glimpses of the Hussein we know were there for all to see in the robust display he put on during the 26-minute court hearing. He was defiant, proud and utterly unrepentant - branding George W. Bush a criminal, challenging the legitimacy of the court and subjecting the young magistrate to a barrage of questions. This is not a man who is going to meekly accept his fate. Predictably, the initial court appearance prompted mixed feelings in Iraq. Most rejoiced at the sight of their former tormentor in chains, facing allegations of war crimes and genocide. His remaining supporters, inevitably, backed his claims that the trial was a farce staged by the US. For many, the appearance must have served as an uncomfortable reminder of the spell which Hussein cast over their nation for so long. The new government was well aware of the risk that the former dictator's words might inspire his followers - they muted broadcasts of the hearing. Hussein will, no doubt, make the most of his days in court. Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic has done the same during his trial in the Hague. But there are also other difficulties to be surmounted. Questions remain about the legitimacy of the court, which was established by the US-led coalition. If a good example is to be set - one which will reflect well on Iraqi's new government - then he must be given a fair trial. Every effort should be made to ensure it conforms with the highest international standards. But this raises enormous difficulties. He was not even able to have his lawyers with him when making last week's appearance in court. There are justifiable doubts about the ability of the Iraqi legal system to handle the case. The judges and lawyers involved lack experience and expertise. And the emotions the case evokes are not conducive to an impartial, independent hearing. It is easy to see why there have been calls for him to be tried by an international tribunal instead. However, this trial has a most important role to play in helping Iraq come to terms with its past. An open trial, in which evidence of Hussein's deeds is given, tested, and weighed by the court will help delegitimise his regime. It is needed in order to bring justice to his victims and to heal wounds. The trial is a necessary part of the country's process of reconciliation and rebuilding. In such circumstances, it is better that he be tried in Iraq - by Iraqis. The trial is unlikely to begin before next year. By then, Iraq should have an elected government. This, presuming it gives the go-ahead to the proceedings, should lend them a little more legitimacy. Hussein's trial presents the already hard-pressed leadership with a huge challenge. But it is one to which they must rise. Dealing successfully with the past is an unavoidable part of preparing for a better future.