September 4, 2007

Chemical Ali Soon Departing

Ali Hassan al-Majeed, the man responsible for ordering the chemical weapons attacks on Kurdish villages, will face execution within 30 days. "Chemical Ali" just began his latest trial in Baghdad, but like Saddam Hussein, he could shortly turn up absent from the proceedings:

An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein's cousin, widely known as "Chemical Ali," for masterminding a genocidal campaign against Iraq's Kurds in the 1980s.

"The nine appeal judges have upheld the death sentence against Ali Hassan al-Majeed, and according to the law of the court, the sentence must be carried out within 30 days," the chief prosecutor in the trial, Munkith al-Fatlawi, told Reuters.

He said the court also upheld the death sentences against two other accused, Sultan Hashim, Saddam's former defense minister, and Hussein Rashid, the former deputy head of operations for the Iraqi military.

Majeed, once one of the most feared men in Iraq, was convicted of genocide in June for directing the 1988 Anfal military campaign against Kurds. Prosecutors said up to 180,000 people were killed, chemical weapons used and villages razed.

The Iraqis immediately executed Saddam Hussein after the high court upheld his death sentence. They chose to pull him out of his ongoing trial on subsequent genocidal crimes regarding the Anfal attacks. His execution turned out to be a botch-up, degenerating into a catcalling contest with his executioners mocking him and chanting the name of Moqtada al-Sadr, embarrassing the government.

Majeed may get treated differently. For one thing, the trial he's facing at the moment has to do with crimes against the Shi'ites. That would provide some incentive to the court to continue trying Majeed on charges arising from the 1991 uprising in the south. In the case of Saddam, the Kurds protested the execution before Saddam could face justice for his role in the genocide to the north.

So many genocides, so few necks to stretch.

If the Iraqis want to wait, they could prepare a little better than they did for their first round of executions. Besides the foul-ups with Saddam's execution, they inadvertently beheaded another Saddam official out of inexperience. These executions have tremendous symbolic power, but only if handled properly and with dispassionate mien. Otherwise, the Iraqi death penalty will look more like a lynching party, as it did with Saddam.

I'm betting Chemical Ali survives to see his next conviction. We'll see how much influence the Shi'ites have over the process.


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Comments (5)

Posted by Glenmore | September 4, 2007 9:17 AM

The foul-ups around Saddam's execution were insignificant - he did die as a result of the process.

Posted by Dave in Pa. | September 4, 2007 9:46 AM

An important consideration that's generally overlooked in the coverage of these cases is a clause in the new Iraqi Constitution exempting defendants from the death penalty once they reach their 70th birthday.

THAT is why the first case chosen against Saddam was considered the legally most expeditious to reach a conviction, as Saddam was 69 years old, closing on 70, when he was convicted and executed.

Posted by eaglewings | September 4, 2007 10:28 AM

Hopefully before Yom Kippur, that would truly be an excellent way to bring in the new year. Chemical Ali in hell what an appropriate judgment.

Posted by Dr. Weevil | September 4, 2007 3:34 PM

How big fish are these guys? I can't find Hussein Rashid on the famous deck of cards -- the two Rashids on the list have different other names and different job descriptions --, but Chemical Ali is the King of Spades (= 5th most wanted) and Sultan Hashim the 8 of Hearts (= 27th most wanted). In other words, one very big fish, one big fish, and one small to medium-sized fish.

Posted by NahnCee | September 4, 2007 8:31 PM

I'll count it as a sign of Iraq's progress towards becoming civilized if they can manage to execute Ali without popping his head off.

Or getting on tape caught making childish catcalls.

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