Frans Van Anraat

02.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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Van Anraat was arrested by Dutch officials at his Amsterdam home on December 7, 2004, just as he was apparently planning to flee the country.

He was charged with complicity in war crimes and genocide.

On 27 December 2004, a court ordered his release, a decision that was quashed in February 2005, following an appeal by the prosecutor.

On 18 March 2005, during a pre-trial hearing in Rotterdam, Van Anraat requested to be released until the full trial opened in November. The court rejected his request and Van Anraat was ordered to remain in custody.
His trial started on 21 November 2005 before the district court in The Hague.

On the first day of the trial, a statement to the effect that Anraat did not know that Iraq intended to use the raw materials he provided for chemical weapons was read out in court.

Van Anraat’s defence lawyers also brought forward the argument that the case should be dismissed because Saddam Hussein himself was on trial for war crimes in Baghdad. The court overruled this preliminary objection.

His lawyers also argued there was no convincing evidence linking the material that Van Anraat had supplied to chemical weapons used by Iraq and that he had stopped his shipments to Iraq after the Halabja attack.

In a potentially crucial testimony, a former Japanese business partner of Van Anraat, Hisjiro Tanaka, told the court that the manufacturers had alerted Van Anraat to the fact that the substances he was buying could be used to make poison gas.

Fifteen Kurds from Iraq and Iran participated in the trial as civil parties, claiming the symbolic amount of 680 Euros by way of compensation for losses incurred.

In its concluding arguments, the prosecution demanded a prison sentence of 15 years, the highest possible sentence for cases of complicity in genocide and war crimes.

From 9 December 2005 on, the defence counsel then presented its r case.

On 23 December 2005, the Court found Van Anraat guilty of complicity in war crimes. According to the presiding judge, his deliveries aggravated the attacks and constituted a very serious war crime for which the court imposed the maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

The court stated that the attacks against the Kurds had been carried out with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Kurdish population in Iraq, thus qualifying them as acts of genocide. Van Anraat however, was acquitted of the charge of genocide, as it could not be proven that he knew the genocidal intent of the regime.

The persons who had participated in the trial as civil parties were each accorded the symbolic amount of 680 Euros in compensation for losses incurred.

Defence lawyers appealed this verdict and requested an acquittal, arguing that the court could not find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt because it was very unlikely that the judges had the full picture of who was selling chemicals to Iraq at the time.

They also argued that Van Anraat’s trial was inequitable because several witnesses, including Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali – for allegedly ordering poison gas attacks on Kurds,- were not called to testify.(see “related cases”)

The court began hearing the case on 2 April 2007.

On 9 May the Appeals court increased Van Anraat’s sentence to 17 years holding that he was motivated by greed and repeatedly sold chemicals knowing they were being turned into mustard gas.

The Appeals court upheld the Trial chamber’s decision that he was innocent of complicity in genocide. The Court equally held that the victims could not claim damages in the case, but a lawyer representing victims said she would launch a separate civil case, in order to include more victims and to obtain higher sums of money.


legal procedure

Frans Van Anraat, born in 1942, is a Dutch businessman. It was alleged that he provided Saddam Hussein’s regime with chemical supplies which were used in the attacks on the Kurds in 1988, especially in Halabja, and against the Iranian town of Sardasht in 1987 and 1988.

The Iraqi regime used poison gases against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war and, most infamously, during “Operation Anfal” in Iraqi Kurdistan between February and September 1988. Tens of thousands of civilians in Kurdistan were killed or maimed in the operation, including the 5000 massacred in Halabja in March that year.

It was alleged that Frans Van Anraat was aware of the final purpose for the base materials he supplied. According to the prosecution, Frans Van Anraat was “suspected of delivering thousands of tons of raw materials for chemical weapons to the former regime in Baghdad between 1984 and 1988”. United Nations weapons inspectors reported that Van Anraat was an important middleman supplying Iraq with chemical agents.

A past criminal investigation by U.S. customs authorities based in Baltimore found Van Anraat had been involved in four shipments to Iraq of thiodiglycol, an industrial chemical which can be used to make mustard gas. It also has civilian uses. The chemicals were said to have been shipped via the Belgian port of Antwerp, through Aqaba in Jordan to Iraq.

Although the suspect did not seem to have broken any Dutch export laws, prosecutors intended to prove that he knew that the chemicals he had shipped would be turned into poison gas by the Iraqis and used against Saddam’s enemies.

Van Anraat had previously been arrested in 1989 in Milan, Italy at the request of the U.S. government, but fled to Iraq after being released and remained there until 2003.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Van Anraat returned to the Netherlands via Syria.

Van Anraat was arrested by Dutch officials at his Amsterdam home on December 7, 2004, just as he was apparently planning to flee the country.



The Iraqi special tribunal is a hybrid tribunal created on the 10th December 2003 in Bagdad by the coalition provisional authorities which were government established after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The mission of this tribunal is to judge acts of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as war crimes committed between 17 July 1968 and the 1st May 2003, the period covering the political regime of the Baas party. It is therefore aimed specifically at crimes committed by Iraqis in the aforementioned period notably those committed during the war against Iran (1980 – 1988) and the invasion of Kuwait (1990-1991).

The Iraqi special tribunal was created in the context of the Iraq war (also known as the Gulf war) that began on the 20th March 2003 by operation “Iraqi Freedom.” The operation involved the invasion of Iraq by the coalition. It was conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and the international coalition in order to overthrow the Baas party of Saddam Hussain. The Baas party originating in Damascus in 1947 came to power in Iraq in 1963 but it was only due to a coup of 17th July 1968 that it definitively seized power until 2003. When Saddam Hussein came to power on the 16th July 1979 the party changed significantly and militarised itself. By organising itself into various cells throughout the country the party became strongly resistant in the face of hardship. The United States have been the leaders of the war in Iraq and many reasons for the war have been officially cited by the government of G.W Bush; the fight against terrorism, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was supposed to hold; the arrest of Saddam Hussein, to mention only the main ones. After a rapid defeat of the Iraqi army at the end of April 2003 and the capture of Saddam Hussein, the coalition and Iraq tried to establish a transitional democratic government representing all the Iraqi communities. The coalition also aimed to try members of the Baas party that had been captured.

In close collaboration with the American department of justice to which he reports directly, Paul Bremer, (Iraqi second civil administrator) established by decree the statute of the Special Iraqi tribunal on the 10th December 2003. The United States have awarded more than $100 million to ensure the “construction of the courtroom, conduct exhumations, study the documents seized, the preparation of evidence and the training of the tribunal’s members”.

The statute of the tribunal is a mix of two existing forms of procedure, inspired strongly by American adversarial law as well as Egyptian law which is essentially inquisitorial. If the statute is deemed to be insufficient it explicitly states that the Iraqi penal code of 1971 is to be used. The statute of the tribunal introduced alongside the Iraqi penal legislation a number of crimes taken from statutes of other international criminal courts in order to incriminate the former dictator Saddam Hussein and other members of the regime, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Furthermore, each time that one of these crimes does not have a corresponding match in the Iraqi penal order, the statute authorises the tribunal judges themselves to determine the sentence taking into account the gravity of the crime, the individual characteristics of the accused and international jurisprudence. With regards to its composition, the Iraqi special tribunal consists of 20 attorneys contracted for 3 years, 3 chambers composed of 9 permanent judges appointed for 5 years, a court of appeal composing of 9 judges and 20 judges appointed for 3 years. It is formed solely of Iraqi judges of which a certain number have denounced from the beginning the pressure exerted by the provisional government. Some judges have been the victims of threats, of removal and even of assassination.

Whilst being discredited from the beginning as rendering winners justice, the Iraqi special tribunal had the means to quickly realise its central objective, that of judging the ex head of state Saddam Hussein as well as the main representatives of the Baas regime. In addition to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the tribunal also had jurisdiction to try cases relating to the manipulation of judges, squandering national resources and the use of the Iraqi army against another Arab state. All of these charges were on the indictment for the first trial.

The first trial which took place in front of the tribunal was the trial of Saddam Hussein judged alongside seven of his lieutenants on the 19th October 2003. There were doubts concerning the fairness of the trial in regard to the conditions under which the trial began. Several Human Rights organisations one being Human Rights Watch have condemned technical and financial limits placed on the defence which risked hindering their work in comparison with the support received by the prosecution. Another issue which was the subject of controversy was the re-establishment of the death penalty on the 30th June 2004, which was abolished in 2003 by Paul Bremer. Despite the position today in international law being clearly abolitionist, several death sentences were passed early on culminating with the hanging of Saddam Hussein in December 2006 which was voluntarily made public. After said hanging the tribunal has continued and continues today to prosecute the former members of the Baas government.

At present, the Iraqi special tribunal is still evolving in the context of a political crises and repeated attacks. The execution on 25 January 2010 of “Chemical Ali”, Saddam Hussein’s cousin seems to have revived the movements against religious minorities present in Iraq.


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