Tariq Aziz - Detention - Trial

Trial

He was set to appear before the Iraqi High Tribunal set up by the Iraq Interim Government, but not until April 2008 was he brought up on any charges. This changed when, on 29 April 2008, Aziz went on trial over the deaths of a group of 42 merchants who were executed by the Iraqi regime in 1992, after the merchants had been charged by the Iraqi regime with manipulating food prices when Iraq was under international sanctions. The charges brought against Aziz were reported by The Independent to be "surprising" as the deaths of the 42 merchants had always previously been attributed to Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, on 11 March 2009 the Iraqi High Tribunal ruled that Aziz was guilty of crimes against humanity, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On 2 August 2009, Aziz was convicted by the Iraqi High Tribunal of helping to plan the forced displacement of Kurds from northeastern Iraq and sentenced to seven years in jail. After these judgments had been passed, the BBC News published an article stating that, "there was no evidence that a Western court would regard as compelling that he had anything like final responsibility for the carrying out of the executions" of the 42 merchants and "there was no real evidence of his personal involvement and guilt" with regards to the displacement of Kurds. That same year, he was acquitted in a separate trial which concerned the suppression of an uprising in Baghdad during the 1990s.

On 26 October 2010, the Iraqi High Tribunal handed down a death sentence against Aziz for the offense of "persecution of Islamic parties," amongst them the serving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, following a crackdown on a Shia uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. The Associated Press reports that "the judge gave no details of Aziz's specific role" in the crackdown. His lawyer stated that Tariq Aziz's role in the former Iraqi government was in the arena of "Iraq's diplomatic and political relations only, and had nothing to do with the executions and purges carried during Hussein's reign." His lawyer further stated that the death sentence itself was politically motivated and that timing of the death sentence may have been aimed at diverting international attention away from documents released by WikiLeaks, which detailed crimes in which Maliki government officials have been implicated. His lawyers have 30 days to lodge an appeal, following which the court would have another 30 days to look into the appeal; if the appeal is turned down the sentence would be carried out after another 30 days. On 26 October 2010 the Vatican urged the Iraqi government not to carry out his execution, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated that Aziz's execution would be "unacceptable and the EU will seek to commute his sentence." That same day, the human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the use of the death penalty in this case, as well as for the cases of two other former Iraqi officials; the statement also expressed concern regarding the manner in which trials may have been conducted by the Iraqi High Tribunal. On 27 October 2010, Greek President Karolos Papoulias and the Russian Foreign Ministry both released statements urging the Iraqi government not to carry out the death penalty against Tariq Aziz. Also on 27 October 2010, a spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was reported to have "stressed that the UN is against the death sentence and in this case, as in all others, it is calling for the verdict to be cancelled." On 28 October 2010, it was reported that Iraqi Bishops and ordinary Iraqis also condemned the death penalty for Tariq Aziz. Furthermore, according to the Wall Street Journal, "several international human-rights groups have criticised the procedures and questioned the impartiality of the court."

According to AFP, his family had stated that Tariq Aziz, along with 25 fellow inmates, has been on a hunger strike following the sentence to protest the denial of their once-monthly visits with family and friends, but an Iraqi court official has denied this. According to AFP, Aziz and the other prisoners were "still at the site of the court in Baghdad’s Green Zone and had not been transferred back to prison where they could have received their monthly visit."

On 17 November 2010, it was reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had declared that he would not sign Aziz's execution order. However, there is still a possibility that the execution will be carried out anyway.

According to press reports on 29 November 2010, Tariq Aziz will likely not be executed. He was accused of only minimal involvement in connection with atrocities committed against Kurdish people during the Iraq-Iran War and received a 10 year prison sentence from an Iraqi court in addition to previous convictions.

On 5 December 2011, Saad Yousif al-Muttalibi, an adviser to the Prime Minister, indicated that the execution of Aziz would "definitely take place" after the withdrawal of American forces.

Read more about this topic:  Tariq Aziz, Detention

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