As Saddam Hussein's trial stumbled along in Baghdad, prosecutors in a Dutch district court presented a thick case file alleging the ousted Iraqi ruler oversaw the genocide of Kurds in the 1980s, including orders he signed to destroy Kurdish villages with chemical weapons. The defendant was not Saddam, but a Dutch businessman charged with complicity in genocide for allegedly selling him the raw materials for poison gas. But before it can convict Frans van Anraat, the Dutch court must first find that genocide occurred under the Iraqi regime, in effect condemning Saddam. Van Anraat's indictment names Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, as unindicted co-conspirators in war crimes and genocide against Kurds in Iraq and Iran between April 1984 and August 1988. The Dutch court has no jurisdiction over Saddam, and its findings are not binding on the Iraqi High Tribunal that is trying Saddam.
But the ruling in The Hague will be closely watched, in Baghdad and elsewhere, since no other court has ever dealt with the issue of Kurdish genocide. "The Iraqi prosecutors will view the Dutch proceedings as a test-run of their genocide case against Saddam Hussein," said law professor Michael Scharf of Case Western Reserve University. "They will learn from the Dutch judgment what arguments are most persuasive and what evidence is most compelling," he told The Associated Press. If the Dutch court dismisses the genocide allegations, it could persuade the Iraqi judges to drop the case, Scharf said. If it goes the other way, the credibility of the Dutch court would enhance the case for a genocide ruling against Saddam in Baghdad. Prosecutors have asked for a 15 year prison sentence, the maximum under Dutch law for complicity in genocide, reports the AP. N.U.