A special tribunal set up to try war criminals has handed down a death sentence for Tariq Aziz, 70. Once a close confidante of Saddam Hussein, he served as deputy foreign minister and then foreign minister for the years spanning 1983-2003. He has been charged with crimes against humanity for the killing and torturing of Shiites. There are other charges against him as well.

His death by hanging has already been opposed by the Vatican. Now,  President Jalal Talabani has added his voice to that of the Vatican. Talabani, who is trying to reduce the violence in his country believes reconciliation should be considered. Stating that he felt “compassion” for Aziz due to his age, he also stated that Aziz was an Iraqi Christian. Talabani stated emphatically to France’s 24 TV that he would “…never sign this order.”

It should be noted that although Talabani refuses to sign the order for the hanging of Aziz, he felt no such compassion for Saddam Hussein, who was hung while Talabani was in office. However, in this case , Talabani must also look to his deputies and opposition in Parliament for agreement to his decision. A deputy or an act of Parliament can overturn his decision, and the sentence of hanging Aziz can be be carried out.

It should be noted that the very Shiites that Saddam and Aziz persecuted during their reign of killing are the very religious sect that controls the Iraq government today.  Aziz’s son,  Zad, currently in Jordan, said the decision to hang his father, “was a political decision…therefore, it is null and void.”