[JURIST] An Iraqi judge and spokesman for the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] said at a Baghdad news conference Monday that the execution of three former Saddam-era Iraqi officials sentenced to death for their role in the 1988 Anfal Campaign [HRW backgrounder] can proceed without the approval of the Iraqi president because of the scope of their crimes. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] said Friday that he objected to the planned execution of one of the condemned officials [JURIST report], former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai [TrialWatch profile], and that he would not approve al-Tai's death sentence. The Iraqi constitution holds that executions must first be approved by the government and the president's office, but legal experts disagree over whether that rule applies to the special court that tried the former officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A lawyer for the three condemned officials, also including Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti and Ali Hassan al-Majid - known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali" [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], filed a petition [text, doc] for commutation of the sentences Sunday, insisting that they could not be carried legally out without the personal approval of the Iraqi president. Monday's announcement, although not an official ruling, suggests that the petition is likely to be denied. AP has more.
The three officials were all convicted [JURIST report] in June of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the slaughter and gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal Campaign. Al-Majid has repeatedly denied the allegations [JURIST report], saying that he does not know who used chemical weapons or "if they were ever used." Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] was also a co-defendant in the Anfal genocide trial before he was executed in December 2006. Talabani similarly refused to sign Hussein's death warrant [JURIST report], invoking his general opposition to the death penalty. The warrant was subsequently signed by Talabani's vice-presidents.