Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for November 22nd, 2011

More Anti-Baath Legislation in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 12:59

The Iraqi parliamentary cycle has kicked off again following the Eid al-Adha holiday. Perhaps serving as a harbinger of legislative priorities over the coming months, a bill outlawing the Baath and parties supporting racism, terrorism, takfir and sectarian cleansing was giving its first reading. This represents an attempt at implementing the law called for under article 7 of the constitution that was not ready before the March 2010 parliamentary elections – which instead saw massive attempts at extra-judicial and vigilante de-Baathification.

As usual, the bill itself is not published by parliament when it is merely on the stage of the first reading. Nonetheless, it seems likely that the bill read today was more or less similar to the one that was prepared by cabinet this summer and was leaked in some media. The parliamentary committees charged with handling the bill (security & defence, de-Baathification and legal) may have introduced minor changes along the way.

The draft bill is quite short. To some extent it stays truthful to the constitutional requirements for banning the Baath and parties supporting terrorism, racism, takfir (labelling others as unbelievers) and sectarian cleansing – though it falls short of defining those ideologies it is seeking to outlaw other than the Baath. For good measure, parties that are “against the peaceful transfer of power” or against the constitution itself or the “principles of democracy” are banned as well.

The bill then goes on to ban all possible forms of support and promotion of the Baath party. It further says that these measures also apply to parties promoting the other outlawed ideologies.

Perhaps the most important and potentially controversial aspect of the bill is the creation of a committee that will oversee the law and hand over potential cases to the prosecution. This committee will be headed by the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, with members from the ministries of justice and human rights, the head of the consultative state assembly and two judges. As is well known, the minister of state for parliamentary affairs and the ministries of human rights and justice (which also administers the consultative state assembly) are all dominated by members of the grand Shiite alliance to which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki owes his second term. Of course, this all comes at a time when there is already evidence that vague accusations of Baathism are being used to settle political scores.

The law then goes on to stipulate severe prison terms – mostly in the range from five to ten years – for offenders. In this section it also goes beyond the constitutionally mandated focus on political parties to also define punishment for government official discrimination on sectarian or racist grounds. There is also specific mention of the crime of forcing someone to leave his or her home for “sectarian, religious or nationalist” reasons.

The biggest problem with the draft law is the combination of vague criteria (what exactly constitutes “racism”?) and the designation of a supervisory committee that inevitably will be seen as political. For example, some of the claims by the two biggest Kurdish parties to annex to the Kurdish region outlying areas where minorities of Kurds live can hardly be defined as anything other than “racism”. Similarly, the tendency of some parties to define certain governmental posts as belonging to particular ethnicities, be they Kurds or Arabs, would also seem to constitute racism. It is noteworthy that in line with the constitution, sectarianism is not outlawed as such, only sectarian cleansing.

The full details of today’s debate regarding the first reading have yet to be published. It will be interesting to see which Iraqi deputy dares to be the first to demand ethnic quotas for the committee overseeing the anti-racism bill.

Posted in De-Baathification, Iraqi constitutional issues | 13 Comments »