In April 2011 Iraq’s parliament ended one of the main barriers to fighting corruption in the country. That is Article 136B of the Iraqi Criminal Code. The article allows ministers to stop investigations, and has been used more and more in recent times. It’s yet to be seen whether this is part of a real effort to counter the widespread corruption in the country, or just another cosmetic move meant to look like the government is doing something.
On April 18, 2011 Iraq’s parliament ended Article 136B of the Iraqi Criminal Code. The article allows ministers and other top officials to end investigations of their own offices. In the first half of 2010, Article 136B was used 95 times. That was more than all of 2009 when it was employed 54 times. A recent example of its use was when former Interior Minister Jawad Bolani used 136B to stop the inspector general of his own ministry from looking into the purchase of fake bomb detectors. Although the article is employed in only a relatively few of the hundreds of investigations going on within Iraq each year, it does show the country’s top officials personal interest in blocking corruption cases.
This is the third time that the government has rescinded Article 136B. The previous times, it was eventually brought back. That’s because there is no real will within Baghdad to address this pressing issue. Many of the ministers run their offices like personal fiefs to dish out jobs to their friends, family, and followers. Nepotism and patronage leads to stealing and other nefarious practices. Article 136B has allowed these practices to continue with the personal protection of top officials. Baghdad is currently under pressure from the streets to deal with corruption. That was probably a driving factor behind 136B’s repeal. The authorities now have to use this new freedom to prosecute and convict top criminals, something that has never happened since 2003, otherwise this move is simply window dressing meant to appease the public rather than bring about any real change.
Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraqi parliament removes barrier to corruption inquiries,” 4/18/11
Commission of Integrity, “CoI Key achievements and indicators from January 1, 2010 To June 30, 2010,” 7/28/10
Office of Investigations, “Commission of Integrity Annual Report for 2009,” Commission of Integrity, 8/9/10
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10