“It’s time for humanity to know ... the magnitude and scale of the crimes committed against the people of Kurdistan,” the lead prosecutor for the Anfal case, Munqith al-Faroon, said in his opening statement on the trial’s first day.
The proceedings are taking place in the same courtroom where Saddam spent months jousting with the judges in his turbulent first trial. Saddam became furious when prosecutors spoke of Kurdish women being raped in prison during the campaign.
“I can never accept the claim that an Iraqi woman was raped while Saddam is president,” he shouted, banging on a podium in front of him and pointing a finger at the prosecutors. It was one of the few outbursts in a session that was generally calm and businesslike.
After a near five-hour session, the trial adjourned until Tuesday.
The trial opens a new legal chapter for the ousted Iraqi leader, who once again faces a possible death penalty for the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Iraqi army’s Operation Anfal — Arabic for “spoils of war”.
The 1987-88 crackdown was aimed at crushing independence-minded Kurdish militias and clearing all Kurds from the northern region along the border with Iran. Saddam accused the Kurds of helping Iran in its war with Iraq.
Kurdish survivors say many villages were razed and countless young men disappeared.
They also accuse the army of using prohibited mustard gas and nerve agents, but the trial does not deal with the most notorious gassing— the March 1988 attack on Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 Kurds. That incident will be part of a separate investigation by the Iraqi High Tribunal.
Verdicts for Saddam and seven co-defendants are expected in that case on October 16.
That trial was plagued by frequent outbursts by Saddam and he appeared ready to show the same defiance in his new trial — as did his co-defendant, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who allegedly led Operation Anfal, becoming known as “Chemical Ali” for the use of poison gas.