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European rights court rejects appeal of Saddam chemical weapons supplier

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] Tuesday rejected an appeal [judgment, PDF; press release] by a Dutch businessman convicted of selling chemicals used by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] to create chemical weapons. Frans Van Anraat [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted of war crimes in 2005 for selling 1,100 tons of thiodiglycol (TDG) to the Iraqi government in the 1980s, which was used to produce mustard gas used against Iraqis and Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Van Anraat appealed to the ECHR, arguing that because the Netherlands did not have jurisdiction over members of the Iraqi government who perpetrated the war crimes, including Saddam Hussein, he could not be convicted for his complicity in the war crimes. He also argued that the definition of "customs of war" provided by the Dutch War Crimes Act did not meet the international standard of sufficiency required under the European Convention on Human Rights [materials]. The court dismissed Van Anraat's argument regarding jurisdiction, stating that the issue was not raised until the appeals process and that the court hearing the appeal was not required to consider the argument at that time. It also rejected the contention that the definition of war crimes was vague, stating that there was nothing unclear about the criminal nature of using mustard gas as a weapon, at the time when Van Anraat sold the chemical to the Iraqis. Van Anraat is currently serving a 16-year sentence.

In June 2009, the Dutch Supreme Court [official website, in Dutch] upheld [judgment, in Dutch; JURIST report] Van Anraat's conviction finding that the record, including his continuing role as Iraq's sole supplier of TDG after the death of 5,000 Iraqis in the 1988 Hajabla attack [JURIST report], showed that his participation was intentional. Prior to the Supreme Court hearing the case, Van Anraat had appealed his conviction on charges of complicity in war crimes to the Court of Appeal, which also upheld the conviction [judgment, in Dutch] in May 2007. In January, Iraqi officials executed [press release, in Arabic] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known as "Chemical Ali," for ordering the Hajabla attack.

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