Iraq’s three-member Presidency Council has approved the execution of Ali Hassan Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein known as “Chemical Ali,” said a high-ranking Iraqi government official today who was not authorized to speak on the subject.
The official said there was no date set for the hanging, which must be carried out within 30 days. He also said the Presidency Council had agreed only to the execution of Majid, not two codefendants also convicted in June of genocide and other crimes.
Majid’s death penalty, and that of the others, had been held up because the council was divided over how it might affect national reconciliation. The council is composed of a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd.
Supporters of Majid and his codefendants had argued they were merely carrying out Hussein’s orders when they took part in the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds in the 1980s.
The U.S. has held Majid but refused to hand him over until the council reached a decision on whether he would be hanged or put in prison.
It was not immediately clear if he had been handed over yet to Iraqi authorities.
The decision to hang him could be seen as another setback in reconciliation efforts in Iraq, where Kurdish distrust toward the Shiite-led government is high.
Earlier this week, the Presidency Council also failed to approve a law seen as crucial to reconciliation, which would have established powers of provinces and laid the groundwork for provincial elections. And Iraq’s divided parliament has yet to approve other major legislation that U.S. and Iraqi officials say would accelerate reconciliation among the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups.