By Mustafa al Kadhimi for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iraq Business News.
Iraq’s de-Baathification crisis resurfaced Feb. 2, when the Cabinet approved amendments to the Justice and Accountability Act, which deals with the country’s ex-Baathists and the banning of the Baath Party.
The political agreement that established Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government also provided for the closure of the Baath Party issue, referring it to the judiciary. Now, individuals who would like to sue the former ruling party have the right to do so, yet their lawsuits must target individual members who have committed crimes, not the entire dissolved party.
The State of Law Coalition adopted the new law, with the Sunnis and the Union of Nationalist Forces in opposition. Yet, the new law is not in line with the aforementioned political agreement, according to which the Baath Party can be tried as a whole.
Since the de-Baathification law was first adopted in 2003 by US civil administrator Paul Bremer, Iraqis have been deeply divided on the law’s interpretation, application and usefulness. Sunni forces have always opposed the law, as they believe it primarily targets Sunnis, given that the Baath Party’s most prominent leaders were Sunnis.
The law was amended in 2008 and 2013, without resulting in a proper solution. The amendments often just reduced the number of people affected by the political ban or dismissals.
De-Baathification legislation seeks to prevent the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq from 1968 to 2003, from ever rising to power again. This goal was addressed in Article 7 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution, which halted all the party’s activities.
It stipulates: “No entity or program, under any name, may adopt racism, terrorism, the calling of others infidels, ethnic cleansing, or incite, facilitate, glorify, promote or justify thereto, especially the Saddamist Baath in Iraq and its symbols, regardless of the name that it adopts. This may not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq. This will be organized by law. “