[JURIST] The Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) - formerly known as the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] - has issued two arrest warrants [press release] for former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile] for crimes against humanity, according to Aziz's Italy-based lawyers. Aziz is already in custody, but Giovanni Di Stefano says that he has received a letter [PDF] from US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad [official profile] indicating that the court, which is also trying Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], issued a new arrest warrant for Aziz in March based on alleged violations of Article 12 of the IHT statute [PDF text], which covers crimes against humanity, and had issued an earlier one for violations of the same Article in June 2004. The nature of the alleged violations was not disclosed, and Di Stefano says he had previously believed that the "only arrest warrants holding Mr Aziz in custody...were violations of Art.14, namely financial irregularities."
Khalilzad's letter was in response to Di Stefano's continuing efforts to have the former deputy prime minister, a well-known figure in the West and the only Christian in Saddam's former inner circle, released from custody so that he may seek medical treatment [application for compassionate release, DOC] in Russia. His lawyers and members of his family insist that he is in very poor health [JURIST report]. Aziz surrendered to US forces in 2003. Khalilzad said that although the Multi-National Force-Iraq [official website] maintains physical custody of Aziz, the Iraqi court now has legal custody over him and any decision regarding Aziz's detention must come from the court. Last week, Aziz testified in Hussein's defense [JURIST report] and accused the current ruling party of trying to kill Hussein in the 1980s, telling the court that the current government should be on trial instead of Hussein's toppled government.