The US army’s so-called King of Spades, ‘Chemical’ Ali Hassan al-Majid, was finally hanged this morning after a stay of execution and several death sentences.
Convicted in June 2007 for his role at the helm of the al-Anfal (or spoils of war) campaign during the late 1980s, al-Majid was originally sentenced to die in October 2007. However, legal complications meant it would take until the end of February 2008 before the death warrant was finally signed by the Iraqi government and there were still some convictions to come. Two weeks ago he was sentenced to death (again) for his role in the Halabja gas attacks in 1988 where over 5000 people are said to have died.
A family affair
He outlived his cousin, Saddam Hussein, by just over three years and the genocides for which he was found guilty resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and he earned his nickname for the chemical weapons he used against them.
A leading figure of the Ba’ath Party as the Iran/Iraq war was drawing to an unstable end, al-Majid was responsible for the ruthless attacks on the Kurdish population in the north of Iraq.
As the rebellious resistance continued, he ordered that entire villages were to be destroyed and the residents were either killed or deported to southern Iraq, as their homes were torn down and their livestock slaughtered.
Hit and miss
Although he was originally thought to have been killed during a US air strike on the southern Iraqi port city of Basra in April 2003, al-Majid actually survived and wasn’t captured until August of the same year.
At his trial, although he was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, he refused to enter a plea, so the court entered one of ‘not guilty’ on his behalf. It seems like they made the right call too, as he went on to refuse to admit he’d done anything wrong throughout the proceedings.
In the end, al-Majid was given five death sentences for his crimes along with lengthy prison terms for a string of other atrocities…that he never got to serve.
He died today, aged 68.