Iraq approves execution of 'Chemical Ali'

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Chemical Ali" at a hearing in 2004

Iraqi officials say the government has approved the death sentence for Ali Hassan al-Majid aka "Chemical Ali," a cousin of Saddam Hussein, who is widely known for his role in poison gas attacks on Kurds in Iraq. It is expected that the execution will be carried within a month.

Iraqi officials said Friday the presidency council approved the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid two days ago. Under Iraqi law that means the former Saddam Hussein defense minister will be hanged within 30 days.

Majid ordered chemical attacks against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s as part of a campaign to quash Kurdish resistance forces. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan says 180,000 Kurds were killed during the Anfal Campaign, including many civilians. Thousands more were deported.

Falah Mustafa Bakir is director of the Prime Minister's office for Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government. He says Iraqi Kurds want those responsible to face justice.

"For us it was important for these crimes to be documented for the whole world and people to understand that a lot of injustices were committed against our people and we wanted the crimes to be documented and the courts to be open to the public for people to realize that what we were saying was the truth," he said.

In June, Majid and two other Hussein-era officials were convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity for attacks on Iraqi civilians and sentenced to death by hanging.

An appeals court upheld the verdict in September, but the execution was delayed as politicians debated who had the right to give final approval on sentencing.

The two other officials are senior Hussein-era military chief Hussein Rashid Mohammed and former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai. Their execution orders have not yet received final approval.

The United States military is holding all three officials and says Iraqi authorities have yet to make a request for them to be handed over.