A senior Iraqi leader accused of genocide, mass murder, and torture should be prosecuted by Austrian authorities, Human Rights Watch said today.

Earlier this week, Vienna city councillor Peter Pilz filed a complaint against Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and top aide to Saddam Hussein, who is in a Vienna hospital.

Izzat Ibrahim is the deputy commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. During Iraq's 1988 campaign of genocide against the northern Kurdish population, Ibrahim helped execute Iraq's "policy of mass murder," according to a Human Rights Watch book on that campaign. After the 1991 Gulf war and the ensuing Kurdish uprising, Ibrahim was the commander for the north, with full authority to "reward and punish."

"This man is Saddam Hussein's right hand. He has been involved in some of Iraq's worst crimes -- including genocide," said Reed Brody, the Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch. "Austria has a clear legal obligation to bring him to justice -- and the international community should back his prosecution."

According to press reports, Ibrahim arrived in Vienna on August 6 for treatment at a private clinic. The Austrian interior ministry said he had been granted a one-month visa for humanitarian reasons.

Who is Izzat Ibrahim?

Izzat Ibrahim has long been a leading figure in the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. In the mid-1970s he was Minister of Interior, and 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 the number two position in the government.

During the genocidal Anfal campaign against Iraq's Kurdish population in 1988, Ibrahim was also a member of the RCC's Northern Affairs Committee which, along with the Ba'th Party's Northern Bureau Command, was the administrative backbone for the military campaign headed by Ali Hassan al-Majid. The Northern Affairs Committee placed its seal on a June 20, 1987 directive, coded SF/4008, which called for "special strikes, ...to kill the largest number of persons" in designated zones, as well as the capture and execution of all adults found in prohibited areas. Human Rights Watch, in its 1995 book Iraq's Crime of Genocide, called this directive the baldest possible statement of a policy of mass murder, ordered by the highest levels of the Iraqi regime." The directive remained in force as the standing orders for Iraqi armed forces and security services throughout the Anfal campaign and beyond.

At the time of the Gulf War and the Kurdish uprising against the government that followed, Ibrahim held the post of commander for the north, with full authority to "reward and punish," in the words of the decree appointing him. 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, that "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 which killed between 3,200 and 5,000 residents.

The Legal Basis for a Prosecution in Austria

According to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Austria is a party, Austria is under an international legal obligation to bring to trial -- or to extradite -- 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 Austria ratified in 1958, Austria undertook to prevent and to punish acts of genocide.

The British House of Lords, in the Pinochet case, affirmed the United Kingdom's obligation to "prosecute or punish" General Pinochet under the UN Torture Convention for alleged acts of torture.

Austria's domestic criminal law also allows such prosecutions. Article 64 of the Austrian Penal Code provides that certain offenses committed abroad can be prosecuted in the Austrian courts . These include (in Article 64.6) "criminal acts which Austria is under an obligation to punish even when they have been committed abroad" -- such as the obligation under the UN Torture and Genocide Conventions. The offence of genocide is defined in Article 321.

For Further Information:
New York: Reed Brody 1-212-216-1206
Washington: Joe Stork 1-202-612-4327
London: Wilder Tayler 44-171-713-1995