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Al Anfal

Court Iraqi High Tribunal (Second Criminal Court), Iraq
Case number 1/ (C) Second/ 2006
Decision title Special Verdict
Decision date 24 July 2007
  • The General Prosecutor
  • Saddam Hussein Al-Majid
  • Ali Hasan Al-Majid (a.k.a. "Chemical Ali")
  • Sultan Hashim Ahmad
  • Sabir 'Abd-al-'Aziz Husayn
  • Husayn Rashid Muhammad
  • Tahir Tawfiq Al-Haj Yusif
  • Farhan Mutlak Al-Juburi
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide, Torture, War crimes
Keywords appropriation of property, destruction of property, enslavement, forced displacement of population, genocide, murder, Non-international armed conflict, persecution, torture, unnecessary suffering, violence to life
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In 1988 the Iraqi government, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein launched a military campaign against the Kurdish population residing in northern Iraq. In eight operations from February until September of that year, both conventional and chemical weapons were deployed against the citizens of Kurdish villages resulting in the deaths and injury of hundreds of thousands. Others were executed in the following raids, their homes were looted and entire villages were burned to the ground. Others still were transported to prison camps where they were starved and detained in inhumane conditions. This campaign became known as the Al Anfal campaign and was the subject of the Iraqi High Tribunal’s second case (the first one being the Al Dujail-trial). 

Seven defendants, including Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan Al-Majid ("Chemical Ali"), were brought before the Court. Charges against Hussein were dropped when he was executed in the course of the trial as a result of his conviction in another proceeding. By a verdict of 24 June 2007, the Tribunal convicted five of the remaining six defendants for charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. One of defendant, Tahir Tawfiq Yusif Al-'Ani, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Chemical Ali and two military commanders were sentenced to death by hanging; the other two were sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Procedural history

Trial proceedings for the massacres committed as part of the Al Anfal-campaign commenced on 21 August 2006.

The defendants are charged with acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, specifically intentionally attacking the civilian population and the use of chemical weapons on a large scale, intentionally attacking protected buildings, destruction or appropriation of property, murder and enslavement.

On 5 November 2006, Saddam Hussein was convicted by the Iraqi High Tribunal in the Al-Dujail-case, and he was sentenced to death. This decision was confirmed on appeal on 26 December 2006. Following his execution by hanging on 30 December 2006, Saddam Hussein was removed from the present case. See also S. Raghavan, 'Saddam Hussein is Put to Death', The Washington Post, 30 December 2006.

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Related developments

[...] appealed against the verdict, arguing that since the Iraqi Constitution prohibited the creation of special courts, the Iraqi High Tribunal was unlawfully created. On 4 September 2007, the High Tribunal's Appeals Commision rejected the appeal, and confirmed the first instance verdict.

The execution of Ali Hassan Al Majid was delayed for political reasons until 25 January 2010. At the time of his death, he had received four death sentences as a result of various proceedings against him (see J. Muir, 'Chemical Ali executed in Iraq after Halabja ruling', BBC News, 25 January 2010).

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Legally relevant facts

In light of successive Iraqi government’s refusals to accede to the demands of the Kurdish population for recognition of their rights (to self-determination, to representation within the Parliament etc), the Kurds resorted to armed violence (p. 38).

With the return to power of the Ba’ath regime in 1968, the Kurdish population became the subject of a number of opressive measures (p. 39). In particular, from February until September 1988 eight military operations were launched against the Kurds in Northern Iraq known as the Al-Anfal operations. The government targeted villages sympathetic to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party and Kurdistan Democratic Party (pp. 41-42). Villages were systematically bombed with chemical weapons forcing residents who managed to survive to flee while their houses were looted and then burned down, others were arrested and transferred to the Northern Organisation Office and then on to concetration camps where many suffered torture and harsh living circumstances (pp. 43-46, 50).

Ali Hasan Al-Majid, a relative of Saddam Hussein, was assigned as head of the North Organization Office, granted Ba'ath Party State Command and Revolutionary Command Council's power to apply their policies all over the aforementioned area (including the Kurdistan autonomous ruling area), aiming to protect security, stability and the regime. In order to achieve these goals, he was granted command over all military, security and civil state systems (p. 42). These powers were given to him by Saddam Hussein Al-Majid, then-head of the Revolutionary Command Council and Armed Forces' General Commander. He also issued the order to use chemical weapons in  the Al Anfal operations. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, as First Al-Anfal Operations' Commander, was directly in charge of implementing the Al-Anfal operations including the devastation of villages, buildings and worship sites, and dislocation of their civil inhabitants. Sabir 'Abd-al-'Aziz Husayn occupied the post of Military Intelligence General Director and Armed Forces General Command's member. Husayn Rashid Muhammad was Army Chief of Staff's Deputy for operations during Al-Anfal, as well as a member of the Revolutionary Command Council. Tahir Tawfiq Al-Haj Yusif was the North Affairs Committee's Secretary and governor of Ninawa Governorate (a northern multiethnic province of Iraq). And finally, Farhan Mutlak Al-Juburi was the Intelligence System Director for the Northern and Eastern Zones (pp. 56-59).

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Core legal questions

  • Can the accused be held responsible for the acts committed during the Al Anfal-operations, and can these acts be qualified as genocide, crimes against humanity and/or war crimes?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Genocide: Article 11(1)(A),(C) of the Court's Law
  • Crimes against humanity: Article 12(1)(A),(C), 12(5) of the Court's Law.
  • War crimes: Article 13(4)(A),(D),(L) of the Court's Law.
  • Individual criminal responsibility: Article 15 of the Court's Law.
  • Sentencing: Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code (life imprisonment or death sentence).

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Court's holding and analysis

The legal proceedings against Saddam Hussein were stopped on 8 January 2007 because of his execution following his death sentence in the Al Dujail trials (p. 965). Tahir Tawfiq Yusif Al-'Ani was acquitted from all charges, as they were not sufficiently supported by evidence (p. 946).

Basing itself on witness statements, expert reports and documentation, the Court convicted the other five accused. Farhan Mutlak Salih Al-Juburi was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity (pp. 946-949), and Sabir 'Abd-al-'Aziz Husayn-al-Duri was found responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; he was (partly due to his apologies towards the Iraqi people and the victims' families) sentenced to life imprisonment (pp. 949-951). Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al-Ta'i (pp. 952-956), Husayn Rashid Muhammad (pp. 956-959) and Ali Hasan Al-Majid (pp. 960-965) were sentenced to death by hanging (and to several prison sentences range from ten years to life) for their involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

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Social media links