The Un-De-Baathification of Iraq

Cabinet Seeks to Reform Law to Placate Sunni Protesters

by Jason Ditz, April 07, 2013

The De-Baathification law and the notorious use of that law by Shi’ite politicians to ban Sunni opponents from office has been a long-standing thorn in the side of sectarian relations in Iraq. That could be coming to an end, per a move by the cabinet.

Iraq’s cabinet has proposed sweeping changes to the law, aimed at barring Saddam-era loyalists from serving in government. The changes would allow lower level former members of the Baath Party to apply for jobs and receive pensions.

Perhaps the most important change would be a time limit, allowing the De-Baathification “Justice and Accountability Commission” to blacklist people only until the end of this year, after which time no one who isn’t already on the list can be discriminated against under the law.

This was a huge problem during the 2010 elections, during which the Justice and Accountability Commission not only banned several Sunni candidates just before the election, but then retroactively took seats away from elected MPs by applying the law to them after the vote.

Current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was famously barred from seeking election in 2010 even though he was expelled from the party in 1977 for speaking out against government policy. This sparked a court battle in which he was eventually reinstated, and won a seat in parliament.

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