Saddam faces genocide charges

IRAQI authorities yesterday filed genocide charges against Saddam Hussein, accusing him and six co-defendants in the 1980s crackdown that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds.

Saddam returns to court today in a six-month-old trial in which he faces a possible death sentence if convicted in the killing of more than 140 Shi’ites.

Defence lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi said Saddam plans to make a statement to the court during the session.

Investigative judge Raid Juhi told reporters he had submitted the new case against Saddam and the others to the Iraqi High Tribunal. That paves the way for a second trial which could begin any time after 45 days.

The charges involve Saddam’s alleged role in Operation Anfal, the 1988 military campaign toward the end of the war with Iran to crush independence-minded Kurdish militias and clear Kurds from the Iranian border area of northern Iraq.

Saddam had accused Kurdish militias of ties to Iran. Thousands of Kurdish villages were razed and their inhabitants either killed or displaced.

A memo released by the tribunal said the Anfal campaign included “savage military attacks on civilians,” including “the use of mustard gas and nerve agents ... to kill and maim rural villagers and to drive them out of their homes”.

Mr Juhi said: “These people were subjected to forced displacement and illegal detention involving thousands of civilians.”

Operations against the Kurds included the March 1988 gas attack on the village of Halabja in which 5,000 people died.

However, Mr Juhi said the Halabja attack would be prosecuted separately and was not considered part of the charges filed yesterday.

Others accused in the Anfal case include Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, or “Chemical Ali”; former Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad; former intelligence chief Saber Abdul Aziz al-Douri; former Republican Guard commander Hussein al-Tirkiti; former Nineveh provincial governor Taher Tafwiq al-Ani; and former top military commander Farhan Mutlaq al-Jubouri.

Saddam and seven others have been on trial since October 19 for the deaths of Shi’ite Muslims following a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail.

Iraqi authorities chose to try Saddam separately for various alleged crimes rather than lump all the cases together.

The Dujail trial was the first of what Iraqi authorities say could be up to a dozen proceedings. Saddam could face death by hanging if convicted in the Dujail case.

But Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said he doubted any sentence would be carried out until all trials were complete - a process likely to take years.

Legal experts said the decision to accuse Saddam of genocide was controversial because the charge is difficult to prove.

UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have accused at least 49 people of genocide, convicting 24 but acquitting 10.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was among the remaining six accused of genocide but died last month before the end of his trial.

In December, a Dutch court sentenced chemicals merchant Frans van Anraat to 15 years in prison for selling to Saddam’s regime the chemicals used in attacks on the Kurds. The ruling, the first ever dealing with atrocities under Saddam, concluded that the attacks constituted genocide.

The court had no jurisdiction to try Saddam, but prosecutors named Saddam and ‘Chemical Ali’ as co-conspirators. The Iraqi tribunal has access weeks of testimony and evidence presented in that trial.

One document was a government decree said to have been signed by Saddam on June 20, 1987, ordering “special artillery bombs to kill as many people as possible” in the Kurdish area. Special artillery, Dutch prosecutors said, meant chemical weapons.

‘Chemical Ali’ was heard in an April 21, 1988, audio clip ordering that people caught in Kurdish areas “have to be destroyed ... must have their heads shot off”. In another radio fragment, he said: “I will attack them with chemical weapons and kill them all.”

Elsewhere in Iraq, a car bomb exploded in a mostly Shi’ite area of eastern Baghdad, killing at least 10 and wounding 28, police said. Another blast killed a woman and two of her young sons in the capital, officials added.

The car bomb went off in the poor, mostly Shi’ite area of Habibiyah, and damaged several cars and nearby sandwich stands, police said. Chaos ensued, and militants from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army fired in the air to clear the crowds.

A bombing in the mostly Shi’ite neighbourhood of New Baghdad killed the woman and two boys, aged nine and 12. A third son, aged 13, was wounded, as were two brothers of a different family living in the same home, police said.

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