In 1979, Saddam Hussein became president of Iraq. Resistance within the country was violently repressed, and the Kurds and Shiites, particularly, were oppressed and persecuted. Both groups responded to this repression with public acts of rebellion. In addition to this internal struggle, Saddam Hussein waged war on Iraq's neighbouring countries. From September 1980 to August 1988, the country was at war with Iran, and on 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded neighbouring Kuwait. Throughout the whole period of the Hussein regime, the authorities used violence to enforce their policies. Thousands of people disappeared or were killed.
Case against Frans van A.
"When I drove into the city of Halabja, I saw many dead bodies. I saw cars full of bodies. (...) I saw that my daughter's face was covered in blisters. Her skin was also discoloured. I also saw that there were foam and blood coming out of her mouth. Then I saw that my father was holding my son in his arms. My father, my mother, and my two children were all dead. (...) I saw hundreds of dead bodies in bomb shelters. (...) In fact, all the victims were civilians. (...) In the case of my own children and father and mother, the skin and the blisters were both red, but a bit further up the road, the corpses had severe burns, and some of the bodies were charred." - (Quotation from a witness statement in the case against Frans van A.)
During Saddam Hussein's reign, the Dutch national Frans van A. was involved in supplying the substance thiodiglycol (TDG) to Iraq. The TGD that Van A. supplied is a substance used in the production of mustard gas. Saddam Hussein used this gas in various attacks on the Kurdish population in Iraq and Iran. At the end of 2003, an investigation into Van A. was launched in response to a television program about him. Van A. was arrested in December 2004, and a year later, in December 2005, was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment for participation in war crimes. He was acquitted of the charges of participation in genocide. On appeal, his period of imprisonment was extended to seventeen years. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld this sentence, with the deduction of six months credit for time served.
The Hague District Court, 23 December 2005
The Hague Court of Appeal, 9 May 2007
Supreme Court of the Netherlands, 30 June 2009, LJN BG 4882
European Court of Human Rights, 6 July 2010, Application no. 65389/09