[JURIST] Iraq's Presidency Council on Friday approved the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the western media as "Chemical Ali," after months of deliberations over the fate of al-Majid and two other men condemned to death by an Iraqi tribunal last year. The Presidency Council, consisting of Kurdish President Jalal Talibani, Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, approved al-Mahid's execution by hanging, but did not approve a death sentence for co-defendants Hussein Rashid Mohammed and Sultan Hashim al-Taie. Late last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki formally asked US President George Bush to hand over al-Majid, but US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that the US would continue holding the three men until Iraqi leaders agreed on their fate [JURIST reports]. Al-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.
The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] al-Majid and his co-defendants to death last June on genocide and war crimes charges for the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] of 1988. 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 nonetheless refused to sign any execution order [JURIST report]. An Iraqi judge said last September that presidential approval is not required [JURIST report] to carry out the executions, but al-Hashemi reasserted in October that the presidency did in fact have the power to block the carrying out of the death sentences, regardless of their approval by Maliki. Al-Majid could now be hanged within one month. AP has more.