Thu, Apr 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Saddam charged with 1980s genocide of Kurds

NEW INDICTMENT The Anfal campaign in the 1980s saw thousands of villages razed, chemical attacks and aerial assaults that killed tens of thousands of people


The special Iraqi court that is trying former president Saddam Hussein said on Tuesday that it had charged the president and six former officials with attempting to exterminate the Kurdish race in massacres throughout the 1980s that killed nearly 100,000 civilians.

The case is the first against Saddam to address the large-scale human rights violations committed during his decades in power, the same crimes the Bush administration has often cited to justify its costly invasion of Iraq.

The most serious of the three charges brought against Saddam and his co-defendants is genocide.

"It was during this campaign that thousands of women, children and men were buried in mass graves in many locations," Raid Juhi, the chief judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal's investigative court, said at a news conference in the afternoon.

"The natives of Kurdistan suffered very hard living conditions, forced relocation and illegal detention for a large number of people," he said.

The bloody campaign, called Anfal, unfolded from 1980 to 1988 in the rugged Kurdish homeland of northern Iraq, as Saddam was also deploying the Iraqi army in the protracted war against Iran to the east. Thousands of villages were razed, and families that escaped death squads or were allowed to live were forced to relocate into the hinterlands. The Kurds tried to fight back with their militiamen, called the pesh merga, but were crushed with chemical attacks and aerial assaults.

Among the co-defendants are Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali," a senior Baath Party official accused of overseeing gas attacks and one of Saddam's most feared aides.

Another defendant, Farhan Mutlak al-Jubouri, a former army general, is the brother of one of the current deputy prime ministers, Abid Mutlak al-Jubouri, from a prominent Sunni Arab tribe.

Juhi said it will be up to other judges to review the charges and decide when to begin the trial. It is unclear whether the Anfal trial would start before the end of the current ongoing trial, in which Saddam and seven co-defendants, all different than those in the Anfal case, are being charged with the torture and killings of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail.

Those killings took place after a failed assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.

The Dujail trial is entering its final phase, in which the court will hear arguments from the defense lawyers and the prosecutor.

If a death sentence is handed down to Saddam in that trial, it is unclear whether the tribunal would carry out the execution before other cases, including Anfal, begin or are concluded. Juhi said on Tuesday that it was too soon to speculate about the issue.

Human-right observers have sharply criticized the shortcomings of the tribunal.

Since the start, the trial has been plagued by the assassinations of a judge and lawyer, political jockeying among judges and government officials, and ambiguous witness testimony.

The levying of charges in Anfal brings a new set of problems, they say. If the case were to proceed concurrent to the Dujail trial, then Saddam's defense team could be placed at an unfair disadvantage, forced to juggle two trials.

The prosecutors and judges would not have that problem; a separate prosecutor and five-judge panel will oversee the Anfal trial.

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