Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, vice-chairman of Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and deputy commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces during Iraq's 1988 campaign of genocide against the country’s Kurdish population, is attending an Arab states’summit meeting in the Egyptian city of Sharm al-Sheikh scheduled to be held on Saturday, March 1. The Iraqi delegation also includes Iraq’s vice-president and long-time RCC member Taha Yassin Ramadan.
“Izzat Ibrahim and Taha Ramadan, who are among Saddam Hussein's key associates, have been involved in some of Iraq's worst crime, including genocide," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "Egypt has a clear legal obligation to bring them to justice and the international community should back their prosecution."
Egypt is obliged under international law to prosecute anyone on its soil responsible for genocide, torture, and serious violations of the laws of war.
Who is Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri?
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri has been a leading figure in the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein since the mid-1970s when he served as Minister of Interior. For most of the period since 1979, when Saddam Hussein took over as president and head of the Revolutionary Command Council, Ibrahim has served as Deputy Chair of the RCC—effectively number two in the government. In 1988, he was also a member of the RCC's Northern Affairs Committee that, along with the Ba'th Party's Northern Bureau Command, was the administrative backbone for the genocidal Anfal campaign against Iraq's Kurdish population. The Northern Affairs Committee placed its seal on a June 20, 1987 directive, coded SF/4008, which called for "special strikes”—i.e., chemical attacks—“to kill the largest number of persons" in designated zones, as well as the capture and execution of all adults found in prohibited areas. The directive remained in force as the standing orders for Iraqi armed forces and security services throughout the Anfal campaign and beyond. Izzat Ibrahim was reported in the Washington Post on January 24, 1991, as warning the people of Sulaimaniyya, a major city in the Kurdish north, "if you have forgotten Halabja, I would like to remind you that we are ready to repeat the operation." Halabja was the Kurdish city that was the target of a major Iraqi chemical weapons assault on March 16, 1988 that killed as many as 5,000 residents.
Who is Taha Yassin Ramadan?
Taha Yassin Ramadan, formerly Taha Jazrawi, has been a member of the ruling RCC since 1969, shortly after the Ba’th Party took power in Iraq. In 1970 he sat on a special court that sentenced forty-two persons to immediate execution for their alleged roles in a coup attempt against the government. He later headed the Ba’th Party paramilitary force known as the Popular Army, which reportedly played an active role in suppressing the March 1991 popular uprising in southern Iraq. That campaign, brutal in the extreme, was characterized by numerous extrajudicial executions, widespread arbitrary detentions and subsequent “disappearances,” and routine torture.
The Legal Basis for a Prosecution in Egypt
According to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Egypt is a state party, Egypt is under an international legal obligation to prosecute -- or to extradite for prosecution -- persons on its territory accused of torture, no matter where the torture was committed. Similarly, under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which Egypt has ratified, its governments undertook to prevent and to punish acts of genocide. Finally, Egypt has ratified the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prescribe that states parties must apprehend persons alleged to have committed war crimes, and bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before their own courts. War crimes include willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment.