Saddam to stand trial for genocide against the Kurds

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Saddam Hussein will face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, the tribunal trying him announced in Baghdad yesterday.

The accusations against the former president of Iraq concern atrocities committed during Operation Anfal, a military campaign against the Kurdish population which, according to human rights groups, led to 100,000 deaths.

During the offensive - led by Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" - 5,000 men, women and children were gassed at Halabja in 1988. However, the investigative judge Raid Juhi said that Saddam and six fellow defendants will face a separate prosecution over the Halabja attack once the court has dealt with the charges relating to Anfal.

"We declare the investigations are completed in the case, called the Anfal campaign, in which thousands of women, children and men were killed," said Mr Juhi, adding: "The villages were destroyed and burnt [and] homes of worshippers and buildings of civilians were levelled without reason or a military requirement."

Saddam's fellow defendants on the genocide charges are al-Majeed, the former defence minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad, the former intelligence chief Saber Abdul Aziz al-Douri, the former Republican Guard commander Hussein al-Tikriti, fellow commander Farhan Mutlaq al-Jubouri and the former Ninevah provincial governor Taher Tafwiq al-Ani.

Saddam and seven other former officials of his regime have been on trial since 19 October charged in connection with the deaths of 140 people at the Shia town of Dujail. Kurdish leaders have expressed concern that Saddam could be executed if he is convicted of the Dujail charges before the charges in relation to the Kurds come to trial.

Iraq's President, Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, said yesterday that the court was considering delaying sentencing until all of them have been heard.