BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 17:01 GMT
Killing of Iraq Kurds 'genocide'
Iraqi Kurds in The Hague
Iraqi Kurds celebrated the verdict outside the court
A court in The Hague has ruled that the killing of thousands of Kurds in Iraq in the 1980s was an act of genocide.

The ruling came in the case of Dutch trader Frans van Anraat, who was given a 15-year sentence for selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein's regime.

He was found guilty of complicity in war crimes over a 1988 chemical attack that killed more than 5,000 people, but acquitted of genocide charges.

It is the first trial to deal with war crimes against Kurds in Iraq and Iran.

'Intent to destroy'

Dozens of ethnic Kurds gathered in the packed courtroom to hear the verdict.

The court has no other conclusion than that these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq
Court ruling

Before van Anraat could be convicted, the judges had to decide whether the 1988 attack on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja amounted to genocide.

According to the 1948 Geneva Convention, genocide is defined as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".

The Dutch court said it considered "legally and convincingly proven that the Kurdish population meets requirement under Genocide Conventions as an ethnic group".

"The court has no other conclusion than that these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq," the ruling said.

However, observers say the Dutch court's decision may not have much influence on the Iraqi tribunal, which is hearing the trial of Saddam Hussein.

The court is believed to be preparing a case against him for the use of chemical weapons in Halabja in northern Iraq.


Van Anraat was not in court to hear the verdict.

Dutch businessman Frans van Anraat, 2003
Frans van Anraat lived in Iraq for several years
He was charged with supplying thousands of tons of raw materials for chemical weapons used in the 1980-1988 war against Iran, and against Iraqi Kurds.

The court found him guilty of aiding war crimes, as "his deliveries facilitated the attacks".

"He cannot counter with the argument that this would have happened even without his contribution," the presiding judge said.

However, the judges ruled that van Anraat was not aware of the genocidal intentions of the Iraqi regime when he sold the ingredients for poison gas.

Victims' relatives clapped when the sentence was read out, while dozens danced in a circle to drums outside the court.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence, which was the maximum that could be imposed for the charge.

The 63-year-old was arrested in 1989 in Italy at the request of the US Government.

He was later released and fled to Iraq, where he remained until 2003.

He was arrested in December 2004 at his Amsterdam home.

Send us your comments using the form below.

This decision is historic because it recognizes at least one act of genocide against Kurds perpetrated in Iraq by the regime of Saddam Hussein. There are of course other genocidal campaigns in Iraq but this is justice for those innocent victims and a legal recognition of an act of genocide against Kurds. As a Kurd who has lost some dear relatives in the deadly attack of Halabja in 1988, I'm grateful for the Dutch court for its unbiased and conscientious verdict. The next step should be compensation of living relatives of Halabja victims.
Dr Nazhad Khasraw Hawramany, Basel, Switzerland

Perhaps a timely reminder to those who like taking a swipe at the American and British leaders. Maybe people should reflect on this when they start comparing freely elected Western leaders with Saddam or when considering whether he has a "fair" trial.
Peter, Provincia di Treviso, Italy

It's about time someone recognized at the world level that the Kurds have been persecuted and harassed ever since the UK artificially drew country lines in that region. I supported the Kurds during the first Iraq War to get them safely back to their homes in Kirkuk among others.
Tony Carey, Edgewater, USA

Well done the Dutch! This is a momentous day indeed. As a lawyer, and more particularly as a Kurd, the War Crimes' Court's finding of genocide today is a watershed. Hopefully it will be the first of many cases to try those "businessmen" suppliers of nefarious weaponry to Saddam's regime. This is only the beginning of course.
Azad, UK, Edinburgh

Your E-mail address
Town & Country

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

Why the court made the ruling


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

--> 'use strict';