Taha Yassin Ramadan
Taha Yassin Ramadan, also known as Taha al-Jazrawi, was born in 1938 in Mosul, in Iraq.
He was one of the few surviving plotters from the 1968 coup that brought the Baath party to power. He rose through the ranks of the Baath Party and joined the regime’s powerful Revolution Command Council after the coup.
He held numerous senior posts during the party’s 35years long rule. He was a member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle and was known as one of his “enforcers”. He also led the People’s Army, a large paramilitary force at the service of the regime, disbanded in March 1991, when he became Vice-President of Iraq, office that he held until the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
Taha Yassin Ramadan was allegedly responsible, together with Saddam Hussein and six other senior officials (Barzan Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, Awad Hamed Al-Bandar, Abdullah Kadem Rouaid, Ali Daeem Ali, Mohammed Azzam al-Ali, Mezhar Abdullah Rouaid), for having ordered and overseen the Dujail massacre. The slaughter was realised in retaliation for the attack on the presidential motorcade on 8 July 1982, while Saddam was visiting the village of Al Dujail to meet with tribal leaders. Dujail was a stronghold of the Shiite Dawa Party, which carried out terrorist attacks in Iraq to protest against the war with Shiite Iran. The Dawa party also wanted to assassinate Saddam Hussein to avenge the execution of one of its founders. When Saddam Hussein’s motorcade entered the city, the Dawa members opened fire. A four-hour battle ensued. Saddam Hussein was saved by soldiers and army helicopters.
In the months following the failed assassination attempt, almost 800 Shiite people from the city were arrested and held in detention, many were subject to torture and 148 confessed to having taken part in the attack. 143 Dujail residents were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court; more than 40 detainees died during interrogation or while in detention from torture, malnutrition, lack of access to medical care and poor hygienic conditions. At least 96 were executed on 23 March 1985. Other 400 detainees, mostly family members of the 148 who had admitted involvement, were sent into exile to a remote part of southern Iraq. The remaining were released and sent back to Dujail, where the houses, farms and properties of many of them had been demolished.
Following the fall of Saddam’s government, Taha Yassin Ramadan was placed on the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqis. On 19 August 2003, he was captured in Mosul by fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and handed over to US forces.
Taha Yassin Ramadan was turned over to Iraq’s Interim Government on 30 June 2004 and committed for trial on 1 July 2004.
On 31 July 2005, Yassin Ramadan was indicted for the commission of crimes against humanity by participation in a joint criminal enterprise. The indictment charged the defendants with 6 underlying offences: wilful killing, deportation or forcible displacement of population, imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts.
The trial started on 19 October 2005. Yassin Ramadan pleaded not guilty.
On 19 June 2006, the Prosecutor asked the court to impose the death penalty
On 5 November 2006, Taha Yassin Ramadan was found guilty of all the offences brought against him, except for the charge of enforced disappearance, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
On 26 December 2006, the appeals chamber considered the life sentence too lenient and sent the case back for retrial demanding the capital punishment .
On 12 February 2007, the trial chamber sentenced Yassin Ramadan to death by hanging. He was executed on 20 March 2007.
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.