Court dismisses appeal by 'Chemical Ali's' Dutch supplier
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a bid by the Dutch supplier of chemicals to Iraq which were used in deadly gas attacks under Saddam Hussein to challenge his conviction.
Frans Cornelis Adrianus van Anraat supplied the ingredients that enabled Ali Hassan al-Majid, or 'Chemical Ali', a senior member of the regime, to launch deadly mustard gas attacks during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Later they were used on Iraq's own Kurdish population, most notoriously in the massacre of 5,000 Kurds in 1988 at Halabja, northwest Iraq.
Anraat submitted to the Strasbourg-based court that his conviction in the Netherlands for being an accessory to war crimes was unfair.
In December 2005, a Dutch court jailed him for 15 years. The appeal court in 2007 added two years to his sentence; and in 2009 the Dutch Supreme Court rejected his appeal on points of law.
Anraat submitted to the Strasbourg court that since Iraq's then leaders, as members of a sovereign state, were immune from prosecution in the Dutch courts, he should never have been prosecuted as an accessory in the first place.
He also argued that the relevant articles of the Dutch War Crimes act under which he had been convicted were not sufficiently precise to confirm with international law.
But the Strasbourg judges ruled his bid to put the case before the court was inadmissible.
Since in his initial appeal to the Dutch courts he had not advanced his sovereign immunity argument, the Supreme Court had not been obliged to response to it, the judges ruled.
They also rejected his argument on the supposed imprecision of the law.
Van Anraat had argued that a term such as the "customs of war" was too general.
He had compared Iraq's use of mustard gas with the use of napalm by the US forces during the Vietnam War.
"In those circumstances, he argued, he could not have been expected to realise at the time of the Iran-Iraq war that his business activities were illegal," the court's statement said.
But the judges ruled that he knew what he was doing when he supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with thiodiglycol, a key component in mustard gas.
"There was nothing unclear about the criminal nature of the use of mustard gas either against an enemy in an international conflict or against a civilian population in border areas affected by an international conflict," said the court statement.
Majid, a key member of Saddam's regime and a cousin to the dictator, was convicted for his crimes in Iraq and executed in January this year.
Saddam himself was hanged in December 2006.
© 2010 AFP