Aziz, for decades Iraq’s chief diplomatic representative on the world stage, voluntarily turned himself in to the US military in 2003. He apparently trusted that his long-standing international reputation—including his diplomatic relations with successive US administrations—would protect him.
Instead, the ailing 74-year-old has been subjected to more than seven years of solitary confinement, first by American military jailers at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad’s international airport, and, more recently, by Iraqi security forces. When US occupation forces turned Aziz over to the Iraqi government last July he confided to his lawyer, “I am sure they are going to kill me.”
Previously, Aziz had been sentenced to a combined prison term of 22 years on allegations that he was involved in the execution of merchants accused of price-gouging during the US-UN embargo of Iraq and in the suppression of Kurdish opposition in the north of the country.
The jail term represented a de facto life sentence, given that Aziz is in poor health, suffering from strokes and lung disease while in prison and undergoing an operation for a blood clot in his brain last January.
In the latest decision, the former foreign minister has been sentenced to death for the Ba’athist regime’s crackdown in the 1980s on Shi’ite Islamists, including the Da’wa party. Supporters of the party carried out a series of Iranian-backed terrorist attacks during that period, including attempted assassinations of both Aziz and Saddam Hussein. At the time, it should be recalled, Washington was supporting Saddam Hussein as a bulwark against the spread of the Iranian revolution to the Shia populations of the Arab world.
The tribunal that handed down these sentences was created by a decree issued under the US occupation’s Coalition Provisional Authority for the purpose of trying members of the Ba’athist government that the US invasion overthrew. Its staff was handpicked and paid by the US Embassy in Baghdad. From its inception, this kangaroo court has employed the crudest methods of “victors’ justice.”
The man who will probably sign Aziz’s death warrant is Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Nur al-Maliki, the leading figure in the Da’wa Party, while the judge who issued the sentence, Mahmud Saleh al-Hasan, is a member of Maliki’s Shi’ite political bloc, the State of Law Coalition.
Aziz went through his multiple trials largely without any legal representation, as lawyers who dared to defend him were threatened with death by Shi’ite militias linked to the US-backed regime.
Essentially, he was found guilty of the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s secret police by virtue of his representation of the Iraqi government as the country’s chief diplomat. Those familiar with the workings of the Ba’athist regime dispute this logic, pointing out that Aziz was never part of the inner circle that controlled the security forces, drawn largely from Hussein’s Tikrit-based clan.
There is no small irony in Aziz being sentenced to death for religious-based persecution. Born in 1936 to an impoverished Christian family in northern Iraq, Aziz was drawn into nationalist politics in his 20s, working for the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy. Like many of the radicalized young people of the Arab world of his generation, he believed that nationalist revolution could liberate the region from the legacy of colonialism, including the ethno-religious divisions exacerbated by the divide-and-rule methods of European imperialism.
The Iraqi political forces overseeing his trial are linked to militias implicated in the massive sectarian-based bloodletting provoked by the US occupation. Iraq’s Christian population has been decimated, and the possibility that someone born a Christian like Aziz could assume a prominent post in the current regime is absolutely nil.
More fundamentally, however, the court and the regime itself are creations of a criminal war and occupation carried out by US imperialism. The death sentence was dictated from Washington.
While the European Union has declared the death sentence decreed against Tariq Aziz “unacceptable” and the Vatican and several European governments have called for clemency, the Obama administration has maintained a guilty silence.
The obvious question raised by the judicial lynching of Tariq Aziz is: Who are Washington and its local compradors to try anyone for crimes against the Iraqi people?
As Tariq Aziz himself told the British Guardian last August, in his only interview since his imprisonment, “We are all victims of America and Britain. They killed our country.”
The last seven-and-a-half years of US-led occupation have destroyed Iraqi society, claiming the lives of well over a million people, turning more than four million into refugees, and leaving millions more hungry, unemployed and lacking the most essential services.
To sentence Tariq Aziz to death while the authors of these crimes—in both the Bush and the Obama administrations—enjoy impunity is not only a crime, but an obscenity...................
In a letter Monday (Nov. 16), Moore responded to a report the State Department is preparing to categorize the terrorist organization's campaign against Iraq's Yazidi sect as genocide but not to include Christians as targets of genocidal acts. The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission urged Kerry not to distinguish between different groups suffering at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).