[JURIST] Fifteen former Iraqi officials went on trial Tuesday for crimes against humanity [JURIST report] for their role in attacks against the Iraqi civilian population following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The defendants - including Saddam Hussein's cousin and former Iraqi defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], Hussein's personal secretary and bodyguard Abed Hameed Hmoud, former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, and former deputy director of operations for Iraq's military Hussein Rashid Mohammed - are charged in connection with the violent response to the predominately Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in Southern Iraq, during which tens of thousands of civilians were killed. Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa told the defendants Tuesday that they could face the death penalty if convicted of the crimes against humanity charges. Prosecutor Mahdi Abdul-Amir called the 1991 attacks "one of the ugliest crimes ever committed against humanity in modern history." Some 90 witnesses are expected to testify over the course of the trial.
Al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, and several other defendants in the current trial have already been sentenced to death [JURIST report] for their role in the 1988 Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Kurds. Five defendants in the Anfal trial are currently appealing [JURIST report] their sentences to the Iraqi High Tribunal's Appeals Chamber. If the death sentences are upheld, Iraqi law requires the executions to take place within 30 days of the court ruling. The new case is the third in a series of trials involving Hussein-era officials [JURIST news archive]. The first was the Dujail case [BBC timeline] involving crimes against humanity committed in that Iraqi town in 1982, which resulted in the hangings of Hussein and his co-defendants. AP has more.