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Negroponte says US holding 'Chemical Ali' until Iraqi government reaches consensus

[JURIST] US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte [JURIST news archive] said at the end of a visit to Baghdad Sunday that the US will hold Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali", and two other former members of Hussein's former regime condemned to death by an Iraqi tribunal until Iraqi leaders have agreed on their fate, reiterating a previous US position. On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] formally asked US President George Bush to hand over al-Majid [JURIST report] and the other two prisoners. Reuters has more.

Earlier this month, Maliki accused the US military of thwarting Iraqi attempts to execute the three men [JURIST report], and expressed his "determination to ensure that the sentences are carried out." At that point, US commanders said they would not transfer the men to Iraqi custody until they received an "authoritative" request from the Iraqi government. Last week, Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite lawmakers criticized the delay [JURIST report] in the executions of the three men, while Sunni leaders have campaigned to commute the death sentence of Sultan Hashim al-Taie, a man many believe Hussein forced to follow orders.

The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] al-Majid and two co-defendants to death in June on genocide and war crimes charges. The Tribunal's Appeals Chamber upheld the death sentences [JURIST report] in September. Under Iraqi law, the executions were supposed to have taken place 30 days after the men were sentenced, meaning that the men should have been executed no later than October 4. Iraq's Presidency Council, including Kurdish President Jalal Talibani, Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, have nonetheless refused to sign any execution order [JURIST report]. An Iraqi judge said in September that presidential approval is not required [JURIST report] to carry out an execution for al-Majid and his co-defendants, but al-Hashemi reasserted in October that the presidency did in fact have the power to block the carrying out of the death sentences [AP report], regardless of their approval by Maliki.

12/3/2007 - Responding to Negroponte's comments Monday, al-Majid defense lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano said:

The US should not surrender anyone subject to decisions made by the Iraqi High Tribunal because the appeal procedures had not yet been completed and decisions taken by the IHT may well be in violation of the international obligations underwritten by both the US and Iraq.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi government spokesperson has told AFP that Iraq is still waiting for a response [AFP report] from Bush to Maliki's request that US forces hand over al-Majid and his co-defendants.

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