BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq’s Tareq Aziz said ousted president Saddam Hussein personally ordered the suppression of a Shiite uprising in 1991 without reference to top aides.
Aziz, who rose to the post of deputy prime minister in Saddam’s regime and was one of its best-known faces abroad, said the president had absolute power in such matters, unbridled even by the 10-member Revolutionary Command Council in new interrogation footage released Monday.
“Sometime in the 1980s — I do not remember when — an order came out that the president has the right to issue decrees that would have the force of law without having to consult or discuss these decisions with members of the Revolutionary Command Council,” Aziz told the judge during the interrogation six days ago.
“Who issued this order?” asked the judge of the Iraqi Special Tribunal created to try Saddam and senior aides.
“The president himself,” answered Aziz.
Aziz was asked about the positions he held in March 1991, when thousands of Shiites are believed to have been killed in southern Iraq after they rose up in the aftermath of the rout of Saddam’s invasion force in Kuwait.
“I was foreign minister,” he said.
“Weren’t you also deputy prime minister, member of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and Baath Regional Command?” pressed the judge.
“Yes,” said Aziz.
He was then asked about a 1991 decree giving regional commanders of the ruling Baath party “amnesty and punishment powers,” and whether, as a member of the RCC, he was notified of the decree.
“It was not part of my scope of work as foreign minister,” he said, dressed in a white jumpsuit and sporting his trademark thick eye-glasses.
After some prompting by the judge, he said: “I heard that some members of the regional command went to the restive areas in the south, but what they did I do not know. They were not reporting to me since I was foreign minister.”