Thursday, January 28, 2010

Halabja: This is genocide

A man places flowers on the grave of a victim
killed in a
1988 chemical attack in Halabja town,
Sunday, Jan.
17, 2010. AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed

By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe
Chemical Ali receives his fourth capital sentence in the massacre of Kurds.
The final verdict neglects to mention a chemical bomb attack, even after all the evidence presented to the SICT is enough to render the crime "even more than genocide."

Prosecutors look to amend the guilty verdicts issued by the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) on January 17 against a number of former Baath leaders who were tried for the March 1988 gassing the people of Halabja town that left thousands killed and wounded. Halabja's victims, prosecutors, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) criticized the verdict for not classifying the crime as genocide.

"We, the families of victims, are much bothered by that verdict," said Luqman Abdul-Qadir, chairman of the Halabja Victims Association. "It is not as heavy as the crime."

Abdul-Qadir, who lost family members in the chemical attack and himself suffers lung difficulties, explained that they submitted to the SICT enough documents that should have led to the recognition of the Halabja case as "even more than a genocide." On top of that, no wording in the verdict refers to a "chemical bomb attack," added Abdul-Qadir.

The Victims Association will continue their demands that the verdict be revised, and in the coming days it will appeal to the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region Presidencies and Parliament to exert "common efforts."

"The verdict achieved 80 percent of what we demanded," stated Goran Adham, chief prosecutor for the Halabja chemical bombardment case. However, "we wanted it to be recognized as genocide, but it came out as a crime against humanity, which in some sense is not less than genocide."

A day after the decree was announced, the KRG expressed in a statement its aggravation. "The [KRG] respects the decision of the Supreme Tribunal to carry out the ruling against the convicts of the Halabja case immediately and without discrimination, and we regard the sentence as fair, but we are irritated that the case was not identified as genocide," read the statement by KRG spokesman Kawa Mahmud.

He explained that the chemical bomb attack on Halabja targeted civilians and the victims were only civilians. That is a crime against humanity, yet should be considered genocide, he argued.

Although the classifications of the crimes, genocide, and crime against humanity have much in common, the first is more attractive and popular to the world, according to Adham. Simply put, genocide as a crime results from an operation(s) that aims at the destruction of a group of people by another group due to religious, sectarian, or ethnic backgrounds. Crime against humanity results in a large amount of damages and in many victims, as it can be killing, torture, oppression, confiscation, and so on.

"We will appeal to the court and ask for amending the verdict," said Adham, who expects their demand to be met as has happened in previous cases when reviewing some verdicts resulted in firmer sentences. Legally, both defendants and prosecutors can appeal the court's decree in 30 days and ask for a revision.

The court decision given by Judge Abud Mustafa al-Hamami found Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid guilty of ordering the gassing of the people of Halabja, and al-Majid is sentenced to death by hanging. Al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, was commanding the Baath operations in the northern area at that time. This is the fourth capital sentence he has received for leading crimes carried out by the former Baath system in the 1980s.

Ali and the other three defendants were charged with imprisonment for crimes of compulsory displacing and the disappearance of people of Halabja after the chemical attack.

That time, army commander and later a former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed and Chief of Military Intelligence Sabir Abdul-Aziz al-Duri were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment while the Baath Party leader in the area, Farhan Mutlag al-Juburi, received 10 years imprisonment. The three escaped accusations of playing a direct role in the chemical bombarding because of lack of evidence, according to the verdict.

According to prosecutor Adham, the Halabja case is not over yet. There are more Baath officials, military commanders, and fighter pilots who played a role in the same crime.