Former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], was sentenced to death Tuesday by the Iraqi High Criminal Court [ICRC backgrounder, PDF; JURIST news archive]. The court sentenced Aziz to death by hanging [Al Jazeera report] on charges related to the former regime's effort to eliminate Shiite Muslim resistance efforts after the First Gulf War. Aziz and two other former Saddam Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] top aides, Saadoun Shaker, a former interior minister, and Abdul Hamid Hamoud, a former personal secretary, were convicted for their roles in the persecution of various Iraqi religious parties, including the Dawa Party [party website], led now by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The court's decision must be approved by the Presidency Council and may be appealed, but Aziz's lawyer has not yet indicated whether he will be appealing the decision. Aziz's lawyer has previously claimed [JURIST report] he has been denied access to his client and that the current Iraqi government was attempting to find a reason to execute Aziz [AFP report]. Counsel for Aziz, Giovanni di Stefano, released a statement that he filed a request [materials, PDF] with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC) [official website] to safeguard Aziz's life, as well as an emergency application [text, DOC] to stay the execution, stating [press release]:
The so called Iraqi Supreme Court have sentenced Mr Aziz to death on allegations that are frankly nothing short of malicious, capricious and non existent. The trial was nothing short of a farce. In September I applied to the IAHRC for emergency procedures to safeguard the life of Mr Aziz. That application was refused but with leave to supply further evidence. Today I have filed a further application with the said IAHRC to safeguard the life of Mr Aziz and I expect the US Government to comply with any order that is or maybe granted.Aziz is already serving a 15-year sentence [JURIST report] after he was convicted in March 2009 for the 1992 murders of 42 merchants accused of price-gouging during a period of UN-imposed sanctions.
In July, the US transferred 26 Saddam-era Iraqi officials [JURIST report], including Aziz, from Camp Cropper [JURIST news archive] to the Iraqi-controlled Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad. Aziz has said he fears for his life while in the custody of the current Iraqi government. Aziz's family has called for his release on health grounds, claiming he has had two heart attacks and suffered a stroke [JURIST report] in January. In August 2009, Aziz was convicted of forcing Kurdish displacement [JURIST report] from northeast Iraq during the late 1980s, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Prior to his March conviction, Aziz was acquitted of charges [JURIST report] in connection with the 1999 killing of protesters who rioted in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.