Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for February 13th, 2010

Iskandar Witwit Reinstated in Babel; Most Others Still Excluded

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 13 February 2010 21:30

Rather than publishing the names of the hundreds of candidates that in the end were excluded with reference to de-Baathification, the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) today contented itself with releasing a list of 26 politicians whose appeals were successful and who have been reinstated as candidates.

Perhaps the most prominent of these is Iskandar Witwit, an Iraqiyya candidate in Babel where he already serves as deputy governor. While his reinstatement in itself is perhaps a small piece of good news, the complexities of his case just add to the worrying picture of a situation in Iraq where the rule of law no longer exists. To start with, no one knows why the de-Baathification committee tried to exclude Witwit in the first place, since it generally does not publish the reasons for its decisions. According to information that is in the public domain, Witwit was a general in the Iraqi army before 2003 and a low-ranking Baath member  of the ‘udw ‘amil category – this is often (correctly) translated to English as “active member” but it should be noted that the expression refers to a particular category of (low-ranking) membership and does not in itself connote a high level of activity in (or affection for) the Baath party. Given his low rank and his apparent affiliation with the ordinary army rather than with any of the special security services it seems unclear why he should be even considered for de-Baathification under the accountability and justice law of January 2008 (although the combination of low-ranking Baath membership and a job in the security forces would have made him subject to de-Baathification under Paul Bremer’s CPA order no. 1 from 2003).

So we don’t know why an attempt was made to de-Baathify Witwit, nor do we know why his appeal, unlike that of most others, was successful. What we do know, however, is that pending the decision by the appeals court, friends of Nuri al-Maliki in the provincial administration in Babel went ahead and de-Baathified him anyway! Last week he was summarily relieved of his duty as deputy governor and orders issued by him were annulled.  The remarkable thing is that these actions were reportedly justified with a reference to a government decision that members on his (junior) level would henceforth be prevented from working in high positions in the local administration. Not only would this abrupt dismissal by the local executive represent a blatant breach of the principles of due process and the separation of the powers. It would also specifically contradict the new principles of de-Baathification that were adopted in January 2008.

The number of successful appeals – 26 – is the same as that reported by Iraqi media last Thursday night (28) when the outcome of the appeals first broke in the shape of an announcement concerning the fate of two specific candidates – in itself a rather extraordinary kind of procedure. But other than that, everything appears to be in flux. Earlier in the week, in a much-overlooked statement, Khalid al-Shami of the accountability and justice board said only 37 appeals would be upheld at most, since the rest had been submitted according to the wrong procedure. This in itself would be rather scandalous, since the IHEC itself violates the regulation to which the procedures he referred to applies (by using the special de-Baathification appeals court instead of the prescribed legal body for elections issues). Another fascinating aspect concerns the fate of entire lists. The IHEC has earlier announced a ban on 9 lists with reference to CPA order 97. Today, all of a sudden, some members of the accountability and justice committee in parliament said the lists remained banned; others in the legal committee claimed the bans were now “personal” and the lists had been unbanned. So did the IHEC all of a sudden change its position?

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Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, Iraqi nationalism | 15 Comments »