Anyone who's watched news coverage about Iraq over the last 25 years or so has probably seen Tariq Aziz. He was a part of Saddam Hussein's inner circle from the first day the dictator took power. However, unlike 'Chemical Ali' and the rest of Saddam's henchman, Aziz was never a strong man for the regime.
He was more or less the public face of Saddam's Iraq. He was the one who spoke for Iraq at the UN and traveled to America for diplomatic meetings. Charges against Aziz stem from the murder of 42 merchants by Saddam's regime, killed because Saddam thought they were apart of a conspiracy to raise food prices at a time when Iraq was under strict sanctions as a result of the 1991 Gulf War.
Iraqi prosecutors claim that Aziz had complicity in the murders, because as a member of Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council his signature was on the execution orders. Though his signature was on the certificates it's worth mentioning that Aziz had no choice but to sign the orders.
Even though his role in the regime was a diplomatic one, as a member of Saddam's inner circle his signature being on the execution orders was more a formality than anything else. Had he not signed the papers, he would have been the next one to be executed.
Aziz is a devout catholic, and the only known Christian to have ever served in the former Iraqi government. I believe all of Saddam's top henchman deserved to be hanged without a doubt, but I do have some reservations about Tariq Aziz.
If found guilty by the Iraqi courts he will be hanged like Saddam and the rest of his thugs, but I'm not sure death is the appropriate way to deal with Mr. Aziz. Since he had a purely diplomatic role in the regime, the new Iraqi government could use his trial as a way to give the new courts added legitimacy by showing mercy in this instance.
The man is 72 years old and has already suffered a stroke, so he probably won't live that much longer anyway. So even if he were given only a 5-10 prison sentence, it's doubtful that he would survive but it would show the Iraqi people that the new court system is fair and just.
That said, I think it's understandable if the court feels that by going along with Saddam's mass murder he made himself complicit in the acts. That was the same standard by which the U.S. held Nazi war criminals to after WWII, so that's certainly a valid argument to make.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.