Iraq: court hands down fourth death sentence for “Chemical Ali”

The Supreme Iraq Criminal Tribunal sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid to death by hanging on Jan. 17, finding him guilty of having ordered the Kurdish town of Halabja gassed in 1988. The gassing of Halabja, which killed 5,000 Kurds, was part of the wider Anfal campaign against Kurds in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime, which saw numerous such attacks. Though al-Majid, better known by his sobriquet “Chemical Ali,” has the right to appeal, Iraq deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim said that his hanging is expected within days. Al-Majid, who has already been sentenced to death three other times, has still more alleged crimes to his name, but those will not go to trial.

In March 2009, al-Majid received his third death sentence for his role in a 1999 killing of protesters who rioted in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. In December 2008, the Tribunal sentenced al-Majid to death for his involvement in the repression of Shi’ites in southern Iraq during the Saddam regime. Al-Majid has also been sentenced to death for the another killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign. His death sentence in the first Anfal case was upheld on appeal in September 2007, but Iraq’s Presidency Council did not approve the execution until February 2008. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government said in early March that al-Majid would not be executed until the Presidency Council approved the death sentences of al-Majid’s two co-defendants in that case. (Jurist, Jan. 17)

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