The long-awaited bill about easing restrictions on former
members of Saddam Husseins' party as civil servant has rekindled
the hope for Iraq's national reconciliation. Yet uphill tasks
remain ahead to be solved by all parties in the sectarianly divided
The legislation, known as Accountability and Justice Law, was
passed by the parliament on Saturday.
It has been pending before the parliament since March because
Shiite members of parliament, particularly those who are loyal to
the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rejected the return of
Baathists to public life.
The heatedly contested law will allow thousands of former Baath
members to regain assess to government jobs, provided that they are
innocent of crimes against the Iraqis under Saddam's regime.
A small number of senior party members, meanwhile, are still
barred from returning to those posts, despite that they are
entitled to get pensions, according to the 30-point new law.
A new committee will be set up to replace the former
controversial De-Baathification Committee, which was tasked to
purge Baath members from the government jobs, and oversee the
"If this law is implemented correctly on the ground, it will
allow many Baathists to return to the public life and will curb the
violence," Mahmoud Othman, a lawmaker from the Kurdish area, told
"I think it (the law) is a right step toward the national
reconciliation in Iraq," Othman said.
A Shiite lawmaker, Hassan al-Senied who praised the bill, said
that the law will pave the way for approving other laws that are
essential for national reconciliation in the war-torn country.
"This law will have a dramatic impact on closing the ranks of
Iraqis in this stage, so that we are look forward to approve other
crucial laws," he said.
The law, which still needs the approval of Iraq's presidential
council, was passed at the 275-seat parliament where only about 140
lawmakers were present for voting.
Some Sunni parties also rejected the bill. The National Dialogue
Front said the law is unrealistic and inapplicable. The party
complained that the law denies the return of the Baath Party,
whether in ideology, policy or practice, to authority or public
activities under any name.
"I name it Accountability Without Justice Law, because the
accountability should include all the parties (before and after the
topple of Saddam regime), not only the Baath party," said the Sunni
secular politician Salih al-Mutlak, head of the Iraqi National
Dialogue Front, referring to an article in the new law seen as a
compromise to opponents of the law, which allows victims of the
former regime to sue Baath members for their wrongdoing and claim
The Baath party was dissolved following the fall of Saddam and
his followers were expelled from public services. The move fueled
rifts between the Shiites and Sunnis and attributed to a heat-up of
violence as some of the unemployed Baath members turned to
Bloody head-on confrontations between the two sects seem to have
eased when they are joining force to fight al-Qaida.
The Shiite-led Iraqi government has also adopted a draft bill to
release tens of thousands of detainees, who are mainly Sunnis and
under detention for security reasons without trial.
Yet, a long way is expected before substantial agreements can be
achieved by various political and sectarian forces, which are at
odds over other issues, including the control of oil wealth,
constitution amendments and provincial elections.
The United States has been pressuring Iraq's government to make
a breakthrough in reuniting the polarized nation.
Prior to the passage of the law, U.S. President George W. Bush,
who was on a Mideast tour, said in Kuwait that the Iraqi government
needs to do more. Hours later, the president hailed the legislation
"It's an important step toward reconciliation. It's an important
sign that the leaders of that country understand that they must
work together to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people," he
(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2008)