Saturday, September 13, 2008

Accountability And Justice Law Mess

On September 8, a member of Iraq’s parliament announced that it would be naming members to the Supreme National Commission on Accountability and Justice. He said the law could be applied without the committee, but the government had been using it as an excuse not to implement it. The Accountability and Justice Law replaced the old DeBaathification decree issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003 shortly after the invasion. The CPA said the law was only aimed at the top echelons of Baathists, but it turned out to be used against a wide range of professionals and military officials, robbing Iraq of much needed human capitol, and making the Sunnis feel persecuted by the new order. Ahmad Chalabi who headed the DeBaathification Committee was widely seen as sectarian and manipulative. The Supreme National Commission is supposed to administer the new process that was ratified in February 2008, but has been shoddily followed.

Since May 2008, the security forces at least, have been saying they have used the law. On May 29 the Interior Ministry said it was adding some former officers under the act. A similar announcement was made in July when the government gave the Associated Press a document showing that 123 former security officials were being re-integrated. These moves are highly ironic because the law says that no ex-Baathists can serve in the security forces, Interior Ministry or Defense Ministry. The police and army however have been far more willing to accept ex-soldiers and officers than the other ministries unless they had personal or political connections. Even so, the numbers taken in appear to be very small.

What has happened after the passage of the Accountability and Justice Act says much about how Iraq’s fledging government operates. The legislation was held up as a key piece of the reconciliation process, but it has been seven months since the law was passed and it still has no commission to administer it. The Interior Ministry however says that it is applying it, even though the law says it can’t. This whole process places Iraq’s ability to legislate into question because what’s written into a law may not be followed or only on an ad hoc basis. Iraq can’t say it has a functioning government until it has real rule of law, where acts are followed to the letter rather than left to the whim of individual officials, ministries, and governorates as now seems to be the case.


Associated Press, “Saddam-era security officers reinstated,” 7/31/08

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq’s Insurgency and Civil Violence,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/22/07

Government Accountability Office, “Stabilizing And Rebuilding Iraq U.S. Ministry Capacity Development Efforts Need an Overall Integrated Strategy to Guide Efforts and Manage Risk,” October 2007

International Center for Transitional Justice, “Briefing Paper: Iraq’s New ‘Accountability and Justice’ Law,” 1/22/08

Paley, Amit, and Partlow, Joshua, “Iraq’s New Law on Ex-Baathists Could Bring Another Purge,” Washington Post, 1/23/08

Partlow, Joshua and Abramowitz, Michael, “Iraq Passes Bill on Baathists,” Washington Post, 1/13/08

Senanayake, Sumedha, “Iraq: Will Passage Of New Law Appease Sunnis?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1/15/08

Voices of Iraq, “Over 7,500 police members sacked this year – official,” 5/29/08
- “Parl’t forms accountability & justice panel next term – MP,” 9/8/08

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