A Death Sentence to Tariq Aziz Against the WikiLeaks Backdrop

Alexander Mezyaev (Russia)

Tariq Aziz, another Hussein-era top official the new Iraqi administration plans to do away with, was sentenced to death on October 26. When Iraqi leader S. Hussein was sentenced to death and executed late in 2007, few realized what charges actually led to the verdict. Media coverage mostly revolved around accusations like “the genocide against Kurds”, “chemical warfare attacks against civilian population”, etc., leaving a false impression that those were the crimes S. Hussein was convicted of. True, he stood trial over genocide charges, but – having unearthed no convincing evidence of his complicity in genocide – the hearings never reached the verdict phase because S. Hussein was executed following a sentence handed out in the framework of an unrelated case. Nevertheless, for ages to come the prevalent belief is going to be that S. Hussein was executed for genocide.

One could at least assume that the case against S. Hussein was assembled based on charges of some international crimes, but this was not the case either. He was found guilty of confirming Iraqi court’s sentences against a group of individuals responsible for an assassination attempted which targeted S. Hussein and left several people dead, and the sentences agreed fully with Iraq’s laws. The overall picture and the popular perceptions clearly do not match.

As for Aziz, he has been held without charges for over five years. All along, those who put him in jail – a US jail, not an Iraqi one, notably – were unable to invent charges against him. Eventually he was convicted for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 Iraqi merchants for profiteering. The merchants were found guilty of manipulating food prices, which was a serious offense at the time when Iraq was enduring international sanctions. The media seem oblivious to the circumstance. Aziz was also charged – absent even a minimal clarity as to the forms of his personal involvement – with forced deportations of Kurds and the persecution of political parties. Essentially, the conviction of Aziz is based on the collective guilt concept – he is supposed to bear responsibility simply as a top member of S. Hussein’s administration. Aziz used to say that upon their withdrawal from the country the US troops would leave Iraq to the wolves. The forecast, however grim, proved an understatement: the current Iraqi administration lacks a grip on Baghdad, least the rest of Iraq. I met S. Hussein’s defender Bushra Khalil in 2007 and heard her own account of the trial of the toppled Iraqi leader. She said, for example, that the judges lived and the court convened at a heavily secured US military base, meaning that the sentence was generated by a panel which did not deserve to be regarded as an Iraqi one in the precise sense of the word.

The actual reasons behind the war against Iraq and the execution of S. Hussein are an open secret. The Iraqi leader said back in 1975 that Iraq’s location was strategic, and that the existence of the Zionist Israel, the key US ally in the region, plus Iraq’s vast oil reserves additionally factored into the situation. S. Hussein predicted that the enemy’s victory would leave the Iraqis without a homeland and a future.

Sentencing Tariq Aziz to death came against the backdrop of the WikiLeaks revelations about the war in Iraq. The site published tons of information concerning the war crimes committed by the US and Iraqi military in the country.Documents that became available shed light on the deaths of 109,000 people, among them 66,000 civilians, 24,000 so-called insurgents (a term slapped on anybody putting up resistance to the US aggression against Iraq since the demise of the formal Iraqi army), 15,000 servicemen of the new Iraqi administration, and some 4,000 occupants from the Western coalition. On the average, 31 civilians were killed daily since the outbreak of the war in 2003, and the data shows that lethality in Iraq is five times higher than in Afghanistan.

At the moment the international community is confronted with the facts that surfaced in WikiLeaks and has to formulate a response. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights N. Pillay said the information must be thoroughly investigated. An inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council possibly looms ahead, yet the situation invites more serious measures. The only adequate reaction would be to establish an international tribunal for Iraq which must be fundamentally different from those already set up by the UN for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. The three were created to investigate war crimes, but it takes unleashing a war to make war crimes possible. Established by those who prepared, funded, and started the wars in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, the corresponding tribunals had no intention to find out who launched them. Instead, the UN tribunals were a priori supposed to punish the losers. The tribunal for Iraq – a public tribunal, if there is no better option – should be a phenomenon of a totally different nature. Its mandate should include, above all, identifying the authors of the war in Iraq. The US military and, moreover, the US leaders should be held accountable for their crimes in the country.

Since opening in 2009, the British Iraq Inquiry Committee grilled the top London officials who had anything to do with Great Britain’s decision to join the Iraqi campaign, former prime minister T. Blair among them. Blair’s government was aware that the war was at odds with the international law, and that alone should be enough to make Blair and his colleagues face justice. Even apart from the Committee’s findings, the fact that the US-British campaign against Iraq was a violation of the international law can hardly be called into question.

Three years ago Baghdad requested that the UN Security Council set up an international tribunal for Iraq. No response followed at the time, but currently there is no doubt that the tribunal is necessary.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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