Denmark Arrests Iraqi Opposition Leader for War Crimes in the Late 1980s

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Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On November 19, 2002, Danish prosecutors arrested for war crimes Nizar Khazraji, a former military chief of staff of Saddam Hussein who fled Iraq in 1996 and has been living in Denmark as a political refugee since 1999. The filing of charges occurred just days before he planned to leave Denmark and intended to reach northern Iraq to link with Iraqi army dissidents and start a coup against Husein. Danish prosecutors, who had been investigating allegations that Khazraji helped lead Hussein?s brutal campaign against Kurdish civilians in the lat 1980s, decided to press charges and arrest Khazraji after they learned of his application for travel documents. They charged him with murder, pillage and wonton destruction of property in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Mr. Khazraji responded that forces under his command did not participate in the alleged atrocities and that he did not receive the written orders, issued in the name of Ali Hassan Majeed, a cousin of Hussein who ruled Kurdistan in the late 1980s and later served as defense minister. Municipal Judge Ove Dam found that the evidence was adequate to hold Khazraji and put him under house arrest until the investigation could be completed. Khazraji immediately appealed Dam?s order. Khazraji denied planning to go to Saudi Arabia, but said he planned to go to any Arab country bordering Iraq that would accept him.