Tariq Aziz

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Tariq Aziz was born into a modest Chaldean Catholic family near Mosul in Tell Kaif, Iraq, in April 1936. His original name was Mikhail Yahunna.

In the late 1950’s, he joined the Ba’ath Party as one of its early members. The Party was founded in 1947 with the aim of unifying various Arabic States into one common nation. It was at this point that he changed his name to Tariq Aziz, meaning “Glorious Path”.

Tariq Aziz first met Saddam Hussein through their common involvement in the then outlawed Ba’ath Party.

Following the Ba’ath coup in 1963, he was hired as editor of the Ba’ath party newspaper. Subsequently he was sent to Syria in connection with his work, and from then onwards Tariq Aziz rapidly accumulated roles and positions within the government and the Ba’ath party.

He became a member of the Regional Command in 1974. Following this, he was a member of the national leadership prior to becoming Ba’ath party leader in 1977.

From 1974 to 1979, Tariq Aziz was Minister of Information. In 1977, he was elected to the Revolutionary Command Council. From 1979, he was Deputy Prime-minister and from 1983 to 1991, in addition to a brief spell in 2001, he was the Iraqi Foreign Minister.

In April 1980, he was the target of an assassination attempt, but escaped unharmed.

In 1984, Iraq and the US officially restored diplomatic relations after a meeting at the White House between Tariq Aziz and President Reagan.

Tariq Aziz managed to obtain American support for Iraq in its eight-year conflict with Iran. He was also instrumental in forging strong economic ties with the Soviet Union and France.

In 1990 it became his primary mission to defend Iraq’s attack on Kuwait which took place in August of that year.

On 23 March 1991, he was relieved of his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs to re-assume his previous position as Deputy Prime Minister.

In 1992, 42 merchants were accused of profiteering by speculating on the prices of food products during the time of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It is widely known that these merchants were arrested and then executed following summary proceedings and that their goods and property were confiscated.

In December 2002, the US government publicly accused Iraq of concealing weapons of mass destruction. In this respect Tariq Aziz claimed that what the US wanted was not “regime change” in Iraq but rather a wider “region change”.

In the months leading up to the U.S. led invasion, Tariq Aziz, as Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, repeatedly denied that Iraq possessed or was developing any weapons of mass destruction.

On 19 March 2003, several sources reported that Tariq Aziz had been shot dead whilst trying to enter the Kurdish held part of the country. The rumour proved to be unfounded when Tarek Aziz held a public press conference. On the fall of the regime, Aziz was removed from all his positions. His home and possessions were ransacked and looted.

He surrendered to the American forces on 24 April 2003.


legal procedure

Tariq Aziz surrendered to the American forces on 24 April 2003.

He was turned over to Iraq’s Interim Government on 30 June 2004 and was arraigned on the 1st July 2004.

The fourth trial before the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT), which was established to try the most important members of the Saddam regime, began on 29 April 2008. Aziz and Al-Majid, who had been sentenced to death three times for genocide (notably for overseeing the killings of Kurdish villagers in 1988), were the two most high profile defendants in the trial involving six other government officials who were accused of involvement in the murder of 42 Iraqi merchants in Baghdad in 1992.

On 11 March 2009, Tariq Aziz was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

Later that year, on 2 August 2009, a further verdict was handed down on Tariq Aziz and he was sentenced to a further 7 years imprisonment by the Iraqi High Tribunal for his role in the violence perpetrated against Shiite Kurds in the 1980s.

On 26 October 2010, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal sentenced Tariq Aziz to death by hanging for his role in the persecution, torture and killing of Shiite Islamist party members.

Despite being sentenced to death by hanging, the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani has stated that he will not sign the execution order due to Aziz’ age and the fact that he is a Christian. According to the Iraqi Constitution, his signature would be needed to implement the execution.

On 29 November 2010, Tariq Aziz was sentenced by an Iraqi court to an additional 10 years imprisonment for the for the displacement and killing of Shia Faili Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War.



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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