By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq – On February 29, Iraqi officials announced that its presidential council approved the execution of “Chemical Ali”, whose real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid. In June 2007, an Iraqi court convicted Majid of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in the Alfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988.
In 1988, Majid was the commander of Iraqi forces in northern Iraq and following the cease-fire ending the Iran-Iraq war, he ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds. Alfal, meaning “spoils of war” was a campaign that targeted Iraq’s Kurdish population, who supported Iran during the war. During Majid’s trial, the court heard that as many as 182,000 died in attacks that he oversaw.
During the trial, Majid remained defiant and showed no remorse. At one hearing, he said, “I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers. I am not apologizing. I did not make a mistake.”
His conviction and death sentence was upheld by an appeals court in September 2007. Iraqi law states that executions must be carried out within 30 days of it being approved by the presidential council. The US military stated that they have not received a request to turn Majid over; however, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said that Majid will be hung in a “matter of days.”
While his sentence was affirmed by an appeals court in September, his execution has been delayed due to legal and political concerns. Majid was convicted along with two other top officials of the Hussein government – Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, a senior military chief, and the former defense minister, Sultan Hashim al-Tai.
The presidential council, which comprises Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shia, disagreed over the sentence of Hashim. Iraqi Sunnis protested his sentence and Hashemi was among prominent Sunnis who insisted Hashim was simply following orders and should be reprieved.
The US military, who has custody of the three former leaders, refused to surrender any until the presidential council reached agreement. While the council approved Majid’s execution, they have not yet approved the executions of Tikriti and Hashim.
For more information, please see:
Al Arabiya News Channel – Iraq Council Approves ‘Chemical Ali” Hanging – 29 February 2008
BBC – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved – 29 February 2008
Guardian – Chemical Ali to be Executed within 30 Days – 29 February 2008
Telegraph – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved in Iraq – 29 February 2008
Washington Post – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution OK’d in Iraq – 29 February 2008