Up to 182,000 Kurds were killed between 1987-89 in the Anfal (“the spoils”) campaign, including thousands who fell where they stood — mothers clutching babies, villagers trying in vain to run to safety — in Halabja when gassed with chemical agents including mustard gas and sarin in March 1988. After being tried for crimes against humanity, the orchestrator of the Anfal campaign — in which 4,000 villages in Iraqi Kurdistan were destroyed, 250 towns were tainted by chemical weapons, and tens of thousands of Kurds were summarily executed or disappeared — Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka Saddam’s cousin, was sentenced to hang for crimes against humanity.
However, the presidential council did not approve the executions of the other two officials from Saddam’s regime who were tried with al-Majid: Hussein Rashid Mohammed, former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie. Sunni leaders had voiced objections to the two sentences, saying the men were forced to follow Saddam’s nefarious orders. Chemical Ali, convicted in June 2007, will be the fifth official from Saddam’s regime to hang for crimes of the Hussein era.
Now that his execution has been approved by Kurdish President Jalal Talabani and the Sunni and Shiite vice presidents, Ali could be executed at any time.
Human Rights Watch details tapes of Chemical Ali speaking in meetings with senior Baath Party officials in 1988 and 1989. An excerpt from a 1988 tape:
“…We continued the deportations. I told the mustashars that they might say that they like their villages and that they won’t leave. I said I cannot let your village stay because I will attack it with chemical weapons. Then you and your family will die. You must leave right now. Because I cannot tell you the same day that I am going to attack with chemical weapons. I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? F**k them! The international community and those who listen to them.
… This is my intention, and I want you to take serious note of it. As soon as we complete the deportations, we will start attacking them everywhere according to a systematic military plan. Even their strongholds. In our attacks we will take back one third or one half of what is under their control. If we can try to take two-thirds, then we will surround them in a small pocket and attack them with chemical weapons. I will not attack them with chemicals just one day, but I will continue to attack them with chemicals for fifteen days. Then I will announce that anyone who wishes to surrender with his gun will be allowed to do so. Anyone willing to come back is welcome, and those who do not return will be attacked again with new, destructive chemicals. I will not mention the name of the chemical because that is classified information. But I will say with new destructive weapons that will destroy you.”
Ali first had to face trial as a co-defendant in the 1992 execution of several dozen merchants accused of profiteering before his sentence could be carried out.