‘Saddam’s cousin will die’

They have been convicted of crimes against humanity and will be hanged within 30 days.

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“The Iraqi Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence on Ali Hassan al-Majid, Sultan Hashim al-Tai and Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti,” court chief Judge Aref Shaheen told a press conference.

Asked when the three would be executed, Judge Shaheen replied: “According to Iraqi law, sentence must be carried out withing 30 days, no more.”

Majid, widely known as “Chemical Ali” for using poison gas against ethnic Kurds, was the executed Iraqi dictator’s most notorious hatchet man, Tai was his defence minister and Tikriti was armed forces deputy chief of operations.

The three were sentenced to death on June 24 after being found responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Kurds in the so-called Anfal campaign of 1988.

An estimated 182,000 Kurds were killed and 4,000 villages wiped out in the brutal campaign of bombings, mass deportation and gas attacks.

“Thousands of people were killed, displaced and disappeared,” Iraqi High Tribunal chief judge Mohammed al-Oreibi al-Khalifah said after he had passed sentence in June.

“They were civilians with no weapons and nothing to do with war.”

’Thanks be to God’

Majid, 66, was the last of the six defendants to learn his fate in the Anfal case – the second trial of former Saddam cohorts on charges of crimes against humanity since the fall of the feared regime in 2003.

He muttered only “Thanks be to God” before being led from the court.

Saddam’s regime said the Anfal campaign was a necessary counter-insurgency operation during Iraq’s eight-year war with neighbouring Iran.

It involved the systematic bombardment, gassing and assault of areas in the Kurdish autonomous region, which witnessed mass executions and deportations and the creation of prison camps.

Saddam, driven from power by a US-led invasion in April 2003, was executed on December 30 for crimes against humanity in a separate case and charges against him over the Anfal campaign were dropped.

Saddam’s former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was hanged for crimes against humanity on March 20, while the dictator’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, the ex-chief of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, were hanged on January 15.

’I am not apologising’

Over the course of the Anfal trial, which opened on August 21 last year, a defiant Majid said he was right to order the attacks.

“I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers,” he said at one hearing.

“I am not defending myself. I am not apologising. I did not make a mistake.”

Iraqi Kurds were jubilant following the verdicts but initial plans to execute Majid in the Kurdish town of Halabja have been scrapped so the hanging does not appear to be motivated by revenge, an Iraqi government official said.

On March 16, 1988, Saddam’s troops strafed Halabja with chemical gases, killing 5,000 Kurds in one of the biggest military operations against the people of the northern Kurdish region during the Iran-Iraq war.

Human Rights Watch has expressed concern that the Anfal verdicts were as “flawed” as in the previous trial of Saddam over the killing of Shiites from the village of Dujail in the 1980s.