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Public Prosecutor v. Frans Cornelis Adrianus van Anraat

Court District Court of The Hague, The Netherlands
Case number 09/751003-04
Decision title Sentence
Decision date 23 December 2005
  • Public Prosecutor
  • Frans Cornelis Adrianus van Anraat
  • Injured Parties [1] – [15]
Other names
  • Chemical Frans
Categories Genocide, War crimes
Keywords genocide, group, national, ethnic, racial, religious, intent, intent to destroy, Murder, Non-international armed conflict, poison gas, prohibited gas, war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Iraq
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Frans Cornelis Adrianus van Anraat was a Dutch businessman who, from 1984 until 1988, purchased large quantities of the chemical thiodiglycol from the United States and Japan. This chemical was then sold, through a number of different companies located in different countries, to Saddam Hussein’s government of Iraq. After 1984, Van Anraat was the government’s sole supplier of the chemical. The chemical is a key component in the manufacture of mustard gas and was in fact used for this purpose by Hussein’s government who then proceeded to employ the gas in attacks against Iranian military and civilians in the Iran-Iraq war and against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. The effect was devastating, thousands of individuals were killed and many thousands more were injured with long-term effects including blindness and cancer.

The present case before the District Court of The Hague was brought by the Dutch Prosecutor against Van Anraat, a chemicals dealer who sold thiodiglycol to Saddam Hussein’s regime, which was used in the production of mustard gas. He was acquitted of the charge of complicity to genocide because it was not proven that at the time Van Anraat knew that the chemical would be used for the destruction of the Kurdish population. He was, however, convicted of complicity in war crimes and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

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Procedural history

The Public Prosecutor issued a writ of summons against the Accused, Frans Cornelis Adrianus van Anraat, amended on 21 November 2005, for charges of conspiracy to commit genocide and conspiracy to commit war crimes in Iraq by supplying chemical weapons components, in particular thiodiglycol used in the production of mustard gas, to Saddam Hussein’s regime in the period 1986 to 1988.

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Related developments

On 9 May 2007, the Court of Appeals of The Hague found him guilty of repeated complicity in the participation of violations of the laws and customs of war, and sentenced him to 17 years' imprisonment. On 30 June 2009, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld the 2005 conviction of Van Anraat for complicity in war crimes. However, the Court reduced his sentence by six months due to the length of the proceedings.

On 6 July 2010, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Van Anraat’s claims challenging the jurisdiction of the Dutch courts and the legal certainty of the criminal acts being prosecuted. On 16 December 2010, the District Court in The Hague decided that Van Anraat was to pay 3,493 Euros in damages to the State.

On 13 April 2011, the District Court in The Hague decided to pose questions to the International Law Institute on the application of Iranian and Iraqi law concerning the limitation of time in respect to civilian claims (only available in Dutch).

On 10 March 2012, the Prosecutor requested the judges in the Netherlands to confiscate over 1 million Euros in profits made by Van Anraat from selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein.

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Legally relevant facts

The government of Iraq under the Arab Baath Socialist Party perpetrated and escalated the severe oppression of the Kurdish minority in the country. From the 1970s onwards, Kurds were forcibly relocated into collective villages located in barren areas easily accessible to the Iraqi army. In the 1980s an increasing number of Kurdish villages were destroyed and as many as 500 000 Kurds were forced to relocate to amalgamised villages and government complexes. In early 1987, the forces of the Kurdish leaders Barzani and Talabani joined together in order to fight the Iraqi Army. Around this time, the government of Iraq came to identify all Kurds as the enemy and adopted a policy aimed at eliminating this population in what came to be known as the Anfal Operations.

In the context of the Anfal Operations, in March 1988 government forces launched chemical attacks against Kurdish villages. These attacks were accompanied by the arrest and detention of hundreds of yong men and the mass flight of civilians, large numbers of whom were captured by the government and transported to camps and prisons. Further heavy chemical attacks were launched in May 1988 through to September 1988 accompanied by mass executions.

The Anfal comapign appears to have ended on 6 September 1988 with a general amnesty pardoning all Iraqi Kurds who had proceedings against them or who were otherwise being pursued (para. 7.2).

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Core legal questions

  • What is the required intent for complicity in genocide?
  • Do attacks which serve a strategic military purpose but which result in the destruction of parts of an ethnic group preclude a finding of genocidal intent?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.
  • 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  • Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
  • Article 1 of the Dutch 1964 Genocide Convention Application Act (Unofficial Translation by the ICRC).

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Court's holding and analysis

Genocide is a specific intent-crime, which requires that the perpetrator specifically intends to partially or entirely exterminate a population group. Following the case-law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, an accomplice to genocide must have known of the genocide intent of the perpetrator (para. 6.5.1).

The intention to destroy a group implies that the perpetrator targets individual victims because of their membership in a protected group and that the killing or maltreatment of individuals in fact expresses the intention to destroy the group. The Court notes that fighting rebel groups, even if it has consequences for the civilian population, could indicate the lack of a special genocidal intent. However, the campaign of violence in Iraq during the relevant time period far exceeded any military purpose when one examines its external manifestation. That some of the attacks partly served a military purpose does not alter the already established genocidal intent (para. 7.7).

The Court acquitted the Accused of complicity to genocide for insufficient evidence proving that the Accused knew, at the time of delivering the substances, that he was making a contribution to the attacks that were aimed at the destruction of the Kurdish population (para. 8). The Accused was convicted of complicity in violations of the laws and customs of war (para. 14). He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment (para. 21).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

See the other judgments against Van Anraat:

See also the conviction of Saddam Hussein and others in the Iraqi High Tribunal's Al Dujail and Al Anfal trials:

  • Iraqi High Tribunal (First Criminal Court), Al Dujail, Case No. 1/E First/2005, 5 November 2006.
  • Iraqi High Tribunal (Appeals Commission), Al Dujail, Case No. 29/c/2006, 26 December 2006.
  • Iraqi High Tribunal (Second Criminal Court), Al Anfal, Case No. 1/ (C) Second/ 2006, 24 June 2007.
  • Iraqi High Tribunal (Appeals Commission), Al Anfal, 4 September 2007.
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Additional materials

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