Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Good Start

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Frans Van Anraat returned to the Netherlands only to become the first man convicted in connection with war crimes in Iraq and Iran.

The Dutch chemicals merchant who had ties to Saddam Hussein's regime must now serve 15 years in prison for supplying Iraq with five million litres of thiodyglycol for chemical weapons of mass destruction (see DETAILS below). Resulting weapons were allegedly (so far) used in the 1988 bombing of Halabja in northern Iraq, which annihilated around 5,000 civilians in a single day.

Van Anraat, 63, was not in the courtroom when the judges found him guilty of war crimes but acquitted him of genocide charges. Outside the courtroom, more than 100 Kurds sang, banged drums and danced in celebration.

DETAILS: Soldiers in the First World War called mustard gas "the Devil's breath." It is one of the most terrible weapons ever devised. It leaves its victims blind and covered with agonizing blisters. Inhaled, mustard gas can cause a slow, painful death by suffocation. For decades, its use has been banned by international conventions.

Iranian Kurdish day laborer Gader Molanpoor told the court he lost his pregnant wife and three children in the attack on the town of Sardasht. He was in a neighbouring village but his family was in Sardasht when the attack occurred. "I saw my children, they could not stand up, they were dizzy, throwing up," he said. In the days following the attack Molanpoor tried desperately to get medical help for his three children and heavily pregnant wife. "They had eye problems and their skin burned ... nobody dared to touch them and I had to put them in the ambulance myself," he told the court, fighting back tears. Eventually in the days after the attack he watched his whole family die one by one. Molanpoor also got blisters on his hands as he tried to wash the chemicals off his children and still suffers from health problems as a result.


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