Saddam Hussein has gone on trial for genocide and war crimes against the Iraqi Kurds but has refused to enter a plea. Instead the judge has entered a “not guilty” plea on behalf of the former Iraqi president. Saddam and six ex army commanders are accused of killing an estimated 100,000 Kurds in a 1987-1988 offensive known as Operation Anfal, or Spoils of War. He is expected to claim it was a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against Kurdish militias, accused of helping arch-enemy Iran.
One of Saddam’s co-defendants is his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali for purportedly ordering poison gas attacks. Iraqi forces are accused of carrying out raids with mustard gas and nerve agents.
“They attacked our villages with the utmost brutality,” said Abu Bakar Mohammed, whose town Sugalo was hit by chemical weapons. “We were bombarded from dawn to dusk from the air and by artillery.”
Saddam and seven different defendants have already been tried for the murder of 148 Shi’ite Muslims in Dujail in 1982. A verdict is due on October 16.