Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Legalization of the Anfal Campaign as Genocide and A Crime against Humanity

January 26, 2008
Kurdish Aspect, CO - By Dr. Nouri Talabany

Genocide is the greatest crime against humanity since its express purpose is the annihilation of a chosen group of people who have their own distinctive culture, and those guilty of this crime must be punished. The Ba'athist regime in Iraq, for about thirty years, committed a great many crimes against the people of Kurdistan, some of which are considered as genocide and crimes against humanity since they did, indeed, target a particular group of people with the express intention of exterminating them. The main perpetrators of these crimes and their accomplices, whether ordinary individuals or those in positions of power, are equally culpable, no matter the reasons for the crime – be they political, social, religious or any other.1

Genocide is considered an international crime. In an international document, signed in Paris, in December 9th, 1948, and rectified by the Iraqi Government in January 20th, 1959, defining the crime of genocide and aiming to prevent and punish the perpetrators of this crime, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated it a crime against humanity and asked that its perpetrators be indicted before either an international or internal court.

The "Anfal" is named after a sura of the Quran. It was a genocidal campaign in which the Ba'athist regime sought to exterminate the Kurds. In Iraqi Kurdistan it resulted in the deaths of more than 180,000 civilians, most of whom were buried alive in the desert near the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They were killed, not because they were involved in an armed struggle with the Iraqi government, but simply because they were Kurds. The majority were villagers and some were taken from concentration camps where they had existed in appalling conditions since being forced from their villages. Their killers made no distinction between men and women, young and old, healthy and infirm; their aim was their annihilation. The consequences are long-term and far-reaching and affect almost every family in Kurdistan. Families knew nothing of the fate of their loved ones and had no means of discovering their whereabouts. It created enormous social problems, as women had no means of knowing whether their husbands were dead or alive and so could not remarry, and many children were orphaned. Some of the elderly and infirm were eventually released; they know what happened and are eye witnesses to this atrocity. Approximately 100 of them gave evidence to the Iraqi High Criminal Court when the accused were tried.2

The Iraqi High Criminal Court, in a decision taken on the 24th June, 2007, decided that the Anfal was genocide according to the internationally accepted definition as stated in the Convention of 1948 to which Iraq was a signatory. This recognition that Anfal was genocide is long overdue. This High Criminal Court, which tried some of the higher echelons of the Ba'athist regime, sentenced most of the accused to death. All those who are guilty of complicity in this crime, be they leaders or collaborators, Arabs or Kurds must be put on trial. Throughout history, the Kurds have suffered greatly while the outside world remained largely uncaring, but the Anfal operation was carried out openly, with assistance from some large European companies who supplied the chemicals, so that no one can plead ignorance, nor can we forget.

The Anfal campaign is comparable to other horrendous genocides, such as that of the Armenians during the First World War and the Holocaust in which millions of Jew were exterminated by the Nazis.3

When the trial of the accused began, I hoped that some international expert in genocide and crimes against humanity would assist the lawyers defending the families of the Anfal victims. Most Kurdish lawyers have no experience of dealing with crimes of such magnitude, since they have been cut off from the outside world as a result of the political isolation of Kurdistan for many years. Most of the state administration, both military and civil, and including different organisations of the Ba'ath Party, share the guilt for this crime. The Iraqi state is legally responsible for the Anfal operation and its consequences, as it is also responsible for the repayment of loans to many states, companies, and even some individuals, outside Iraq. Most of these loans were used to finance the wars that the Ba'athist regime began illegally against neighbouring countries like Iran and Kuwait, or to subjugate their own people. Currently, many of these countries, companies and individuals are still being repaid. In the same way, Iraq must undertake responsibility for compensating the relatives of the Anfal victims. Some government officials and their supporters make the excuse that the Ba'athist regime made no distinction between the killing of Kurds or Arabs, but they choose to forget that the express purpose of the Anfal, in which most state organisations participated, was the annihilation of the Kurds. Again, we must ask why the Iraqi government accepts responsibility for the repayment of these loans to the Ba'athist regime, yet appears not to be responsible for compensating the families of the victims of the Anfal because they are Iraqis.

During the Second World War, the Nazis killed millions of Jews. After

the war, the elected government of West Germany, led by Konrad Adenauer, compensated the families of those killed although it was in no way responsible for Hitler's crimes.4 For about ten years, it even compensated the state of Israel which was seen as having inherited those who lost everything and everyone in the Holocaust.

The German government asked the Jewish people for forgiveness and, in the same way, the Iraqi state must ask forgiveness of the people of Kurdistan and the relatives of the Anfal victims. This must be done by an Act of Parliament. This is a vital safeguard because, if it is done simply by a letter from the Prime Minister or by a declaration by his government, it would leave the way open for a future government to refuse to honour any decision taken by their predecessors. In fact, just such a situation occurred on June 26th 1966, when the government of General Naji Talib refused to honour the Declaration of the government of Dr. Abdul Rahaman Bazaz which set out the steps to be taken to peacefully resolve the Kurdish issue at that time.

In Arbil, in April 2002, at a Conference on the Anfal Operation, I proposed that the government and parliament of the Kurdistan region should ask the Iraqi state to ask forgiveness from the people of Kurdistan when Sadam's regime ended, and that it should then compensate the relatives of the Anfal victims. The Conference approved my proposal but, more than four years after the fall of the Ba'athist regime, no such action has been taken. In May 2007, I made the same proposal to the Parliament of Kurdistan in a session specially convened to discuss the crime of the Anfal campaign, hoping that they would act upon it. More recently in a seminar held in Arbil in July 2007, attended by many MPs from the Iraqi parliament and the acting Speaker and MPs from the Kurdistan parliament, I directed my words at the acting Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, stressing on reconciliation even for the past,5 but I added that forgiving does not mean forgetting because it is difficult to erase such crimes from memory.6 Asking forgiveness does not imply that either the Iraqi people or the present government are responsible for the Anfal operation, just as the German people and government, after the Nazi regime, were not responsible for the Holocaust. It is time for the Parliament and political parties of Kurdistan to insist on the Iraqi parliament asking forgiveness because, if the demands of our people are not met now, it is unlikely that this will happen in the future.

Before the fall of the Ba'athist regime, the Kurdish activists of the Diaspora, together with some international human rights organisations, e.g. Middle East Watch and Amnesty International, some MPs from several European countries and senators and representatives in the US, tried to persuade the international community that the crime of the Anfal operation was genocide. This was recognized by a Special Iraqi Court which, after examining the documents and hearing the evidence of the surviving relatives of the Anfal victims, convicted some high-ranking officials of the Ba'athist regime of genocide, crimes against humanity and even war crimes and condemned most of them to death. The result of these crimes was the death of more than 180,000 Kurdish civilians and the destruction of more than 4000 villages and small towns. The attack on Halabja in 1988 was not the only instance of the use of chemical weapons. They were used in several areas, from 1986 onwards, against civilians who refused to leave their mountain villages. These villages proved inaccessible to Iraqi troops so chemical weapons were used to destroy them.

The international community must take note of the findings of the Special Iraqi Court and act whenever and wherever any middle-eastern government threatens their Kurdish populations with a repetition of these crimes. The Holocaust and the Armenian genocide have been condemned by some European parliaments and the crime of "Anfal" must be similarly condemned.

1 For more details see Nouri Talabany, The Crime of Genocide (in Arabic), Al Kaza, organ of the Union of Barristers in Iraq (Nikabet Al – Muhameen), Vol.3, 1970.

2) Al Mahkama al Ginaya al -Ulia), established by Law No (10), in 2005.

3 "The Forgotten Holocaust", the Independent, 28th August, 2007. Robert Fisk's special report on the Armenian genocide, with previously unpublished images.

4 Konrad Adenauer, German Christian Democrat Politician, Chancellor of West Germany 1949-1963.

5 The Conference was on (Practical Federalism in Iraq), held in Arbil on 10 – 15 July 2007. It was organised by both (International Alliance for Justice) and (No Peace without Justice) and attended by many experts in constitutional law from several federal states, e.g., Canada, the USA, India, Belgium, and Australia, plus representatives of many civil organisations in Iraq and Kurdistan.

6 In the Introduction to the 2nd edition of my book, "Attempts to Change the Ethnic-National Composition of the Kirkuk Region", London, 1999, in Arabic, I expressed these sentiments, hoping that the Iraqi government which would come to power at the end of the Ba'athist regime would end the policy of the Arabization of the Kirkuk region as a step to reconciliation, though this does not mean that the victims of that policy will forget.

Nouri Talabany, Professor of Law and Member of the Kurdish Academy, Independent MP in the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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