Iraqi defector accused of mass murder

Rights groups say Saddam's son-in-law had thousands killed in suppression of 1991 Shia revolt, writes Patrick Cockburn

Hussein Kamel al-Majid, the trusted lieutenant and son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, who defected to Jordan this month, was responsible for one of the biggest atrocities in recent Iraqi history when he suppressed uprisings in the holy Shia Muslim cities of Kerbala and Najaf at the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

General Hussein Kamel, who is staying in one of King Hussein's palaces, is accused by Iraqi human-rights organisations of ordering Scud ground- to-ground missile attacks on civilian areas in the cities.

After they were recaptured from the rebels, he ordered thousands of prisoners to be tortured and shot.

A convoy of detainees being taken from Najaf to Baghdad was met on the road by Gen Hussein Kamel, who told the Iraqi officer in charge to turn around and drive into the desert. A survivor, interviewed later at a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, says that at a place called al-Tar the prisoners were ordered out of the trucks and shot.

Kanan Makiya, head of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard, says: "We spent three months establishing from eye-witnesses that he [Hussein Kamel] was in personal charge of the tank division when entered Kerbala where the worst atrocities took place. On some of the tanks was written: 'No more Shia after today'."

During the suppression of the uprising in Iraq in March, 1991, children were burned alive to force them to reveal the hiding places of their parents. A former Iraqi army colonel who joined the opposition but does not want his name revealed because his family is still in Iraq, says that Gen Hussein Kamel, as commander of the mid-Euphrates region, gave orders for doctors at the Saddam Hospital in Najaf to be killed for treating rebels

A 25-year-old prisoner in the same city saw Gen Hussein Kamel just before the rest of his family was shot. He says that many of the killings were supervised by Taha Yassin Ramadan, now vice-president of Iraq, whose guards shot people in the back as they stood before open pits dug by a bulldozer. The witness escaped after he was left for dead with a bullet in the shoulder.

Kanan Makiya says: "I find it repulsive and short-sighted that anybody should consider Hussein Kamel as a potential leader of the opposition. I think the Iraqi opposition should take legal action to have him extradited and brought to trial."

He says that if one drew up a list of the 20 Iraqis most responsible for killings and torture since Saddam Hussein came to power, Gen Hussein Kamel would be "in the top five or six."

Since he fled to Jordan with his wife on 8 August, Gen Hussein Kamel has denounced President Saddam but has not apologised for any of his own actions. He is also being treated as a new centre of opposition by Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Rolf Ekeus, the UN official in charge of monitoring the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, was due to see Gen Hussein Kamel, the former head of military procurement in Iraq, in Amman yesterday.

Gen Hussein Kamel is also said to have brought crates of documents with the names of Western companies responsible for supplying Iraq with arms legally and illegally during and after the Iran-Iraq war.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad two other relatives of President Saddam, his cousin Hashem Hassan Al-Majid and his former bodyguard, Arshad Yassin, who is married to President Saddam's sister, have disappeared.

The uprisings which engulfed southern Iraq in March, 1991, started in the port of Basra and spread rapidly to all the Shia Muslim areas in the country apart from outside Baghdad. In desperation the regime used loyal Republican Guard units armed with heavy tanks - in Kerbala they used British- made Chieftain tanks captured in Kuwait - to counter-attack. According to one account, which cannot be confirmed, Taha Yassin Ramadan, though noted for his personal violence, opposed Gen Hussein Kamel's use of Scuds against the cities.

The recapture of Kerbala and Najaf were the most important military objectives for the regime because they are the shrines of the Shia Muslims. Heavy artillery was used mercilessly. Ayatollah Khoe, the 91-year-old spiritual leader of the Shia, whose house was in nearby Kufa, was arrested by Taha Yassin Ramadan and forced to appear on television with President Saddam to denounce the uprising.

After the recapture of the holy cities, Gen Hussein Kamel moved to Hilla, another centre of revolt on the Euphrates, where he is accused of supervising killings at the Infantry Training Centre and Mahawil base, averaging 120 a day.

Some witnesses survived because, although repression was savage, it was also sometimes haphazard.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
football
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Salary: £16k - £20k Dependant o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot