Papers link Hussein, use of sarin

BAGHDAD, Iraq — BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Prosecutors charging former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with genocide presented potentially damning documents yesterday in his trial showing that his government used banned chemical weapons in a late-1980s counterinsurgency operation against rebellious Iraqi Kurds.

The documents, if authentic, recount the decision-making process behind a chemical weapons attack on Kurdish villagers in northern Iraq. They suggest that Hussein's presidency office was kept regularly informed on the effects and characteristics of chemical weapons and approved their use.


Hussein faces the death penalty for charges of mass murder against the Shiite villagers of Dujayl. While the appellate court reviews that sentence, prosecutors continued to press the case against him for his alleged role in the Anfal campaign, an operation in which tens of thousands of Kurds perished, some in chemical weapons attacks.

The documents presented yesterday described a regime determined to use chemical weapons for maximum lethality.


The targets "lie in lowlands," said a March 25, 1987, letter by former military intelligence director Saber Douri, and thus would be suitable for using the chemical sarin and mustard gas weapons because the poisons would spread out and stay in place a long time. Douri is one of seven defendants in the case.

The letter, addressed to Hussien's office, recommended using one-third of the stock for the attack and saving the rest for other emergencies "due to the limited number of special weapons," later identified as sarin and mustard agents. Both weapons are outlawed under international conventions

Hussein, all but justifying the use of the weapons, said his targets were not his fellow countrymen but agents of Iran, with which Iraq engaged in an eight-year war ending in 1988.

An earlier letter indicated that Hussein's government delayed a chemical attack until the snows thawed when they would be more effective.

So Douri suggested delaying the strike until June.

"Your suggestions have been approved," Hussein's office wrote back the next day.

A June 11, 1987, memo said a chemical weapons strike six days earlier in parts of Dohuk province was successful, killing 31 people and injuring 100.

Douri, standing up in the courtroom, defended his role, saying his job was merely to gather intelligence.


Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.