Provinces take ex-Baathists to Court

Yet, the Iraqi conflict on the issue does not center around the prohibition of the party — it centers around how to deal with the estimated millions of ex-Baathists in the country.

In the first version of the de-Baathification law in 2003, sanctions were imposed on a wide range of Baathists for participating in political life and working in state institutions. This provoked a crisis, given the large number of Baathists. In 2008, the Justice and Accountability Act was issued in an attempt to limit the sanctions to senior Baathist officials.

Sunni political forces, often supported by some Shiites and Kurds, continued to criticize the implementation of the de-Baathification measures, which they believed were used to eliminate political opponents and further personal interests.

The implementation of these measures would also happen selectively, as many Baathists continued to occupy positions in the state, security forces, army and judiciary, all under the protection of political parties.

The legal aspect was absent in the application of the de-Baathification procedures, as the issue was only dealt with on a political level. The law was supposed to differentiate between those Baathists whose hands were stained with the blood of Iraqis, and those who were forced to join the party to obtain a job and never committed any crimes.

Iraqi political forces are so divided over the interpretation of the law that it seems a final solution will never be reached. Even the latest version proposed by the Iraqi Cabinet, which stipulates a one-year deadline for the implementation of the final de-Baathification procedures, was deemed by Sunni politicians to be "the worst" version so far.

The problem is that the issue of former Baathists is not only a matter of political consensus, but it is also a step toward long-term social reconciliation in Iraq. Furthermore, the previous de-Baathification procedures have left major complaints and grievances in their wake.

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