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Justice For Whom?
The Fate of Tariq Aziz in Iraq

Hans von Sponeck, TFF Board Member


November 20, 2008

In 2003 Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, gave himself up to the occupation forces. This was some five years ago. For all these years he has been kept by the US military in solitary confinement at Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad – incarcerated in violation of international law.

It took time before the International Red Cross was allowed sporadic access to Tariq Aziz and other political detainees. Two weeks ago, Tariq Aziz was moved from a US administered prison to an Iraqi Higher Tribunal jail in the Al-Kadhemia district of Baghdad.

On  13 November a letter was written by the  Minister of State in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Bill Brammell, to Claire Short, MP, British House of Commons and former Minister for Development in the Government of Tony Blair. It indicates that Tariq Aziz has “full access to his legal team (and) lawyers have visitation rights at the Iraqi Higher Tribunal and at his US detention facility”. His family, the letter states, has visitation rights when Tariq Aziz is kept at the US detention facility.

This is in contrast to the information received from Ziad Aziz, the older son of Tariq Aziz. He points out that “no one of our family has met my father since May 2006.” He adds that no one from the International Red Cross has been able to visit Tariq Aziz for the past eight months. “I have sent him two bags two months ago which he has not yet received.”

In essence, Tariq Aziz has been deprived  of  fundamental  provisions of the Geneva Conventions.

My predecessor in Baghdad as UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday, and I have appealed on a number of occasions for the release of Tariq Aziz. We did so not out of contempt for the judicial process but because  Tariq Aziz, as a diabetic and heart patient, has life-threatening health problems. He should be released to the care of his family while his case is reviewed by the Iraqi Higher Tribunal.

Media have given little attention to our appeal. The reminder that Tariq Aziz has been held in custody for several years without charges and in violation of law has made no difference.

Denis Halliday and I have also turned to James Baker, Secretary of State in the first Bush  administration. Baker and  Aziz had led their respective delegations for talks in January 1991, in Geneva, in attempts to avoid what eventually became known as Gulf War II. At one time Aziz was an important and welcome visitor to Washington. Halliday and I  thought that James Baker would have the standing, integrity and decency to act as a statesman and intervene on humanitarian grounds with the Bush II administration. We were wrong. James Baker  refused.

In a letter to President-elect Barak Obama, Ziad Aziz, the eldest son of Tariq Aziz, has appealed for humane treatment of his father.

At  this time Tariq Aziz is kept at the Iraqi Higher Tribunal in Baghdad in a small underground cubicle, in darkness and in cold awaiting his trial.

We remember Tariq Aziz as a man who was instrumental in establishing the oil-for-food programme and with whom we worked closely in making the best use of a survival programme inadequately supported by the UN Security Council.

Yet again, Denis Halliday and I ask the US and the Iraqi authorities to show humaneness for a sick man who, as of now,  is innocent since he has not been found guilty of a crime.

Hans von Sponeck,
UN Humananitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1998-2000)
20 November 2008


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