- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

The capture of Ali Hasan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”), one of Saddam Hussein’s most brutal henchmen, earlier this week is a heartening success in the war against terrorism and the regimes that support it. But it is just one event in a long and difficult struggle. During this war, both sides will have their successes (the enemy scored two victories of its own with Tuesday’s suicide bombings in Baghdad and Jerusalem). Even so, the capture of a man who may be one of the worst war criminals of our time deserves special notice.

Al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam, was the architect of a genocidal campaign to kill Iraqi Kurds during 1987-88, as the Iran-Iraq War was winding down. During this period, he commanded Baghdad’s brutal “Anfal” campaign, which resulted in the killing and disappearances of 100,000 noncombatants. Documents later captured from Iraqi intelligence services show that the killings, forced displacements and other crimes were carried out under al-Majid’s direct supervision. Perhaps the most well-known of the atrocities occurred in the Kurdish village of Halabja on March 16, 1988, when his forces used poison gas to massacre 5,000 people.

Al-Majid also oversaw the seven-month 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait, during which thousands of Kuwaiti civilians were tortured or murdered. During the 1990s, he led a military campaign that included torture, disappearances and bombing of villages that reduced the Marsh Arab population of 240,000 people in southern Iraq to less than 40,000. He crushed the 1991 Shi’ite Muslim uprising in southern Iraq.

Al-Majid was initially thought to have died in April, when U.S.-led coalition forces bombed his home in Basra. But allied forces subsequently learned that he had escaped. Now that al-Majid, who is No. 5 on the American list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials, is in custody, the question arises: How should he be tried? Our preference is that, assuming the Iraqi people can establish a mechanism to ensure that al-Majid receives a fair trial for war crimes, that he be tried in an Iraqi court. If that cannot be achieved in a timely fashion, then some international mechanism should be set up to try Ali Hasan al-Majid for the many atrocities of which he is accused.

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