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Iraq Readies War Crime Charges Against Saddam Hussein, Other Former Officials, for Chemical Attacks

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and 11 other high-level prewar Iraqi officials are set to be arraigned in an Iraqi court tomorrow on a number of war crimes charges, including the 1988 use of chemical weapons against the country’s Kurdish population, according to the Associated Press (see GSN, March 18).

The new Iraqi government today took legal, but not physical, custody of the 12 defendants, who are expected to appear in court tomorrow for a reading of the various charges against them, according to AP. In addition to Hussein, the defendants include Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as “Chemical Ali,” former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

“The first step has happened,” said Salem Chalabi, director of the Iraqi Special Tribunal that will try the 12 former officials. “I met with him (Saddam) earlier today to explain his rights and what will happen," Chalabi said.

Hussein will remain in the physical custody of U.S. forces in Iraq until the new Iraqi government can establish a secure facility in which to hold him, AP reported.

The 12 defendants will be designated as Iraqi criminal suspects, which will entitle them to hire their own attorneys or to have counsel appointed for them, Chalabi said. A team of foreign lawyers put together by Hussein’s wife may not be able to represent him, though, because the only foreign lawyers permitted to defend Iraqis without special permission are Palestinians and Syrians, said Baghdad attorney Walid Mohammed al-Shibibi. Other foreign lawyers must first obtain approval from the Iraqi Bar Association.

One of Hussein’s appointed attorneys, Ziad al-Khasawneh, said that the defense team is ready to travel to Iraq, but the new government there has not said whether it would provide them with security.

“How can the defense team go to a country where it doesn’t enjoy any protection? They will kill us there,” al-Khasawneh said (Jim Krane, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, June 30).

 

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