‘Chemical Ali’ genocide verdict due today

The Iraqi high tribunal is set to give its verdict on Sunday on six former aides of Saddam Hussein accused of slaughtering 182,000 Kurdish villagers during a 1988 military campaign in northern Iraq.Ahead of the judgement, the defence team appealed to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to stop the trial which it said was marred by “errors”. The most prominent defendant is Ali Hassan Al Majid, a cousin of Saddam who is widely known as “Chemical Ali” for allegedly ordering the killing of tens of thousands of Kurdish villagers with chemical gas strikes.

He faces a charge of genocide, while the five others in the dock are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all charges that carry the death penalty.

They include Sabir Al Duri, former director of military intelligence, Sultan Hashim Al Tai, a former defence minister, Hussein Rashid Al Tikriti, former armed forces deputy chief of operations, Farhan Al Juburi, a former military intelligence commander, and Taher Al Ani, former governor of the main northern city of Mosul.

Majid is the only individual besides Saddam to be charged with genocide over the so-called Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam, ousted from power by US-led invasion forces in April 2003, was executed on December 30 for crimes against humanity in a separate case.

All six former regime officials are accused of masterminding the slaughter of 182,000 Kurdish villagers in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region in 1988, when the Iran-Iraq war was at its peak.

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for five of the accused, but have asked the court to free Ani for lack of evidence.

Chief prosecutor Munquith Al Faroon has also personally requested a more lenient sentence for Duri.

Over the course of the trial, which opened on August 21 last year, a defiant Majid has said he was right to order the attacks.

“I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers,” he said at one hearing. “The army was responsible to carry out those orders. I gave the army instructions.” In a sometimes belligerent tone, Majid said he was not defending his actions. “I am not defending myself. I am not apologising. I did not make a mistake,” he told Chief Judge Mohammad Al Oreibi  Khalifah.

Since the execution of Saddam, Majid has emerged as the star defendant in the trial and occupies the front seat in the dock previously occupied by the former dictator.Lead defence lawyer Khalil Al Duleimi said on Saturday the defence team had approached the UN chief to stop the trial.

“I appeal to the UN Secretary General to quickly intervene and save the six accused from execution in the Anfal trial,” Duleimi said in a statement released in Amman. “The six are prisoners of war and their trial by the Iraqi high tribunal was marred by errors and violations of the law.” Human Rights Watch also expressed concern on Friday that the verdicts in the Anfal trial could be flawed as it said they were in the previous trial of Saddam over the killing of Shiites from the village of Dujail in the 1980s.

The analysis of the Dujail trial “shows serious flaws in the application of basic international criminal law principles”, said Richard Dicker, who heads the watchdog’s International Justice Programme.

“This raises concerns such errors will be repeated in the Anfal judgement and it therefore won’t withstand scrutiny or the test of time.” The New York-based group said the Anfal trial has also been marred by procedural flaws, including the government’s removal of the first presiding judge, Abdallah Al Ameri, a few weeks after the start of the trial.

In addition, Human Rights Watch “raised concerns about vague charges which made it difficult for the defendants to prepare their case and the inability of the defence to call witnesses who feared for their security”.

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