[JURIST] A spokesperson for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has criticized the Iraqi Presidency Council for refusing to approve the executions of two defendants sentenced to death last year by the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] for their roles in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] of 1988. The Presidency Council, consisting of Kurdish President Jalal Talibani, Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, on Friday approved the execution [JURIST report] of Ali Hassan al-Mahid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the western media as "Chemical Ali," but failed to approve the sentences of co-defendants Hussein Rashid Mohammed, the former deputy head of army operations, and Sultan Hashim al-Taie, a former defense minister. Al-Maliki's spokesman said Friday that the Presidency Council does not have authority to "pardon or reduce" an Iraqi High Tribunal sentence. Under Iraqi law, execution orders require the signatures of all three members of the Presidency Council.
The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] al-Majid and his co-defendants to death in June 2007 on genocide and war crimes charges. The Tribunal's Appeals Chamber upheld the death sentences [JURIST report] last 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 al-Maliki. The Los Angeles Times has more.