An Anfal perpetrator dies in Holland without facing justice

The genocide perpetrator Aziz Hamad Mawlud Shekhani, a Jash leader also known as Mullah Ozer who was commander of the 130th National Defense Regiment (NDR) of the Ba’ath regime, died in Holland on February 5, 2021 without facing justice. Mullah Ozer joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after the 1991 uprising (Raperin) and then fled to Holland in 2003. Under the name of Aziz Koyi, he lived in Holland for 17 years without being arrested by the Dutch police or tried for his crimes.

Mullah Ozer, as a loyal Jash leader of the Ba´ath regime, was accused of killing more than 50 Peshmerga from the Kurdistan Socialist Party (KSP) and around 10 Peshmerga from other PUK parties. He killed or arrested members of the Socialist Party in the early 1980s, when the KSP was the strongest political opposition party in the Erbil District. He generally hunted down and handed over political activists and military deserters to the regime, though he would sometimes misrepresent a military deserter as a Peshmerga member in order to receive better payment. Mullah Ozer participated in the Anfal genocide attacks and had arrested civilians and handed them over to the Ba´ath intelligence agency. Hoping for mercy, many military deserters surrendered themselves to him during the Anfal campaign, but he sent them to their deaths; over 50 victims of the Anfal campaign are linked to him. Mullah Ozer was the leader of the National defense Regiment 130th, which comprised over 1,500 armed men, and the his regiment was actively involved with at least 400 men in the each Anfal attacks. He was also involved in the Anfal attacks of forth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.

There was an outstanding arrest order against him by the Iraqi High Criminal Court (IHCC) due to his crimes in the Anfal genocide. According to a list by the court, the number of defendants was 423 persons, and Mullah Ozer’s name was number 229, and ten complaints have been filed against him at the Iraqi High Criminal Court.

The Dutch police were first informed by the Kurdish human rights organization Kurdocide Watch (CHAK) of Mullah Ozer’s crimes in 2007. The Dutch police investigated the matter but did not raise a case against him. A year before his death, the case against him was re-opened, police activity against Mullah Ozer was started again, and he was prevented from fleeing back to Kurdistan. Unfortunately, before any charges were raised, Mulla Ozer died under unknown circumstances.

The Iraqi High Criminal Court has tried only a few perpetrators of the Anfal genocide (in 2008-2010), and there are many who will likely never be brought to the court´s attention. This is certainly because the perpetrators have been explicitly protected by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK and other political parties in Iraq. Thus, bringing them to justice is not a priority of the current authorities in Iraq. In other words they are protected by the new authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government of Iraq.

Masud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, and Jalal Talabany, the leader of the PUK, spoke out against the trial of the Jash leaders who were formally charged by the Iraqi High Criminal Court. Despite the fact that the families of the victims had filed dozens of complaints against them, Barzani and Talabany refused to arrest these Jash leaders and hand them over to the court. The KDP and PUK, as well as other political parties in the former “Kurdistan Front,” agreed to amnesty for the Jash leaders after the uprising in 1991 (Raperin). Kurdistan Front was not an elected political organization by the people. Most of the Jash leaders then joined one of the two parties, as they had the power of the political decision. These political affiliations were forged in the private interests of the fugitives from justice; they were looking toward the territorial occupation, and both political parties used the Jash leaders in the internal war of the early 1990s. Together the KDP and the PUK violated the legal rights of the Kurdish victims and their families.

Under Iraqi law, political organizations do not have the legal right to pardon. The Iraqi High Criminal Court was (IHCC) actually charging the Jash leaders and issued arrest order against them. Especially in the Iraqi Kurdistan´s case a political organization should have not the right to pardon. This decision should fall instead to the families of the victims. Politicians also should not be empowered to give amnesty to criminals who have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. Therefore, prevention of trial of these perpetrators was immoral as well as politically-motivated.

It is expected that criminals who have committed major crimes will be arrested and tried. However, in Iraqi Kurdistan, unlike in the other free nations of the world, the genocide perpetrators were protected by the authority of the KDP and PUK. In fact, the Jash leader’s positions are much better than what they had during the Ba’ath regime.

But how can a known perpetrator live in Holland since 2003 and not be brought to court, even though he was wanted by the Iraqi court and the Dutch police was informed about him? When Dutch prosecutors raised a case against France van Anraat, a chemical weapons trader, and brought him to court in 2004-2005, Holland marked an important milestone, and the possibility of trials of chemical weapons merchants or criminals of genocide increased. However, this breakthrough was not repeated in other countries. In Denmark, General Nazar al-Khazraji, another perpetrator of the Anfal genocide, was put under house arrest in 2002, but, due to incompetent observation of his home, and under unclear circumstances he fled Denmark in March 2003 and disappeared. We now witness again, in the case of Mullah Ozer, the weak interest that Western countries have in trying the Anfal perpetrators. This is a great disappointment to the families of the victims.

We are witnessing discrimination in the treatment of perpetrators. While governments are still helping the Jewish people arrest insignificant perpetrators of the Holocaust after 75 years and under intense Western media scrutiny, an important perpetrator lived for 17 years in Holland without being tried, and no one cares about his death and escape from justice. Unfortunately, Mulla Ozer is not the last example of the perpetrators who escapes the trial in connection to the Anfal genocide. There are other perpetrators living in western countries. Thus, the treatment of perpetrators depends on which genocide they helped to carry out. Unfortunately, some genocides have a larger impact than others, but the victims of all genocides are human, regardless of color, religion or ethnicity.

Based upon the France Van Anraat case, Holland is perhaps the Western country that has done the most to ensure that foreign perpetrators are brought to justice. The lack of interest that is otherwise so common is probably related to the political interests of countries or to the expected cost of a trial that is not considered to be important to their countries.

One might say, “Why blame the West when the Kurdish Regional Government is protecting dozens of major perpetrators?” The families of the victims have washed their hands of the KDP and PUK authorities, whom they believe to be nakedly chasing their own private gains. These leaders have established a dictatorial militia rule and are corrupt businessmen with strong ties to Turkey and Iran. The Kurdish administration suffers from widespread corruption and political fragmentation. In fact, they have destroyed the Kurdish people´s hope for a better life and for freedom. Thus, the relatives of the victims could only hope for justice in Western countries. Unfortunately, their loved ones were the victims of the wrong genocide.

By Shakhawan Shorash
March 1, 2021