“Chemical Ali” sentenced to death a second time

Two senior former officials in Saddam Hussein’s government were sentenced to death on Tuesday. ‘Ali Hassan al-Majid (nicknamed “Chemical Ali”) and ‘Abdul Ghani ‘Abdul Ghafour, were sentenced by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) for their role in the killing of thousands of people during the 1991 anti-government uprising in southern Iraq.

Other defendants received prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life. They include former defence minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Ta’i, who received 15 years, and Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, who received a life sentence. Three others were acquitted.

If the death sentences against ‘Ali Hassan al-Majid and ‘Abdul Ghani ‘Abdul Ghafour are upheld by the tribunal’s Appeals Chamber, they will be executed within 30 days.

‘Ali Hassan al-Majid, former Ba’ath Party commander of the northern region, Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Ta’i and Hussain Rashid al-Tikriti have already been sentenced to death by the SICT for their roles in the so-called Anfal campaign of 1988 that led to the deaths of some 180,000 Iraqi Kurds. Their death sentences were upheld by the SICT’s Appeals Chamber on 4 September 2007.

On 27 February 2008, Iraq’s Presidential Council approved the death sentence imposed on ‘Ali Hassan al-Majid but is reported to have argued that Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Ta’i and Hussain Rashid al-Tikriti, as military personnel, were obeying orders and should not be executed.  All three are still in US military custody.

The Iraqi and US governments signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) on 27 November 2008 under which all those detained by US forces will be handed over to the Iraqi authorities after 31 December 2008. All former officials, including ‘Ali Hassan al-Majid, Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Ta’i, Hussain Rashid al-Tikriti and ‘Abdul Ghani ‘Abdul Ghafour, are likely to be executed.