Iraqi parliament plans legislative revolution, abolishes almost 14,000 laws

April 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraqi parliament plans legislative revolution, abolishes almost 14,000 laws

niqash | Kholoud Ramzi | mon 04 apr 11

The Iraqi parliament wants to abolish almost 14,000 laws made by both the interim American rulers and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime. But critics fear replacement legislation will take longer.Over the coming weeks the Legal Committee of the Iraqi parliament plans to repeal 82 orders issued by US diplomat Paul Bremer, the former presidential envoy to Iraq who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the American transitional government which ruled Iraq, between May 2003 and June 2004, when power was handed over to an Iraqi interim government.

The Iraqi parliament also plans to abolish around 13,500 orders issued by Saddam Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council since the day the deposed leader’s Baath Party took power in July 1968.

Muhsin al-Sadoun, a member of the parliamentary legal committee, told NIQASH that, “the committee formed to study the laws and draft new ones will repeal all laws issued under [Bremer] the Civil Administrator in Iraq, and those issued by the dissolved Revolution Command Council.”

“It is shameful that Iraq is still applying these laws while it has a permanent Constitution in force and a consensus government in which all Iraqi components are represented,” al-Sadoun said.

Al-Sadoun explained that with the adoption of Iraq’s permanent Constitution in 2005 all decisions issued by the CPA and the Revolutionary Command Council had become null and void anyway. But, he said, “they are still applied in the [Iraqi] state departments because there were no new orders issued to replace them. This is causing lots of confusion.”

The parliamentary legal committee recently established a working group to examine these older laws and to draft replacements that will better address realities in the new Iraq.

According to local legal expert Yassin Atban, one of the biggest problems during the last few years was the “selective manner” in which the various laws were repealed.

Since his departure from Iraq in 2004 Bremer has been criticized, both in the US and abroad, for various laws he enacted while heading the CPA in Iraq. Commentators have suggested that some of Bremer’s legislation actually contributed to increased unrest in Iraq over the ensuing years.

One of these was the de-Baathification law, another was Bremer’s decision to completely demobilize the Iraqi army.

Members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath political party headed most of the country’s important institutions and included many of the country’s best educated and well connected elite. Many ordinary Iraqis were party members too, often simply because, for example, they would have had no prospects for career advancement if they were not. This meant that the wholesale de-Baathification of Iraq – the removal of all Baath party members from the public sector – resulted in tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and left many of the country’s institutions leaderless.

The demobilization of the Iraqi army left thousands more officers and soldiers unemployed. Many of these, angry at the new political situation, joined armed factions as well as al Qaeda and contributed further to the country’s turmoil.

Some of these decisions began to be reversed soon after the CPA handed over power to the Iraqis. In 2004, the interim Iraqi government headed by Iyad Allawi began to rebuild the Iraqi army, allowing hundreds of experienced officers to return to work.

Other reversals came later. In 2007 the Iraqi parliament dissolved the de-Baathification Commission, replacing it with a new Accountability and Justice Commission. Under the new procedures, the number of persons affected by de-Baathification laws was reduced to just 1,500 senior party members.

Not all of the laws that the CPA instituted were considered negative. Bremer also suspended the death penalty and came up with more liberal defamation laws, which related to media in Iraq. Civil society activists have described these as “worthy reforms”. However the Allawi interim government rescinded these too, cancelling the suspension of the death penalty and re-activating past defamation laws. The latter threatens journalists found guilty of the defamation of a political figure with capital punishment.

Additionally some of Bremer’s laws still remain in force today. One of these included legislation that increased the number of expert advisers to each state ministry from two to seven. Having more Iraqi interest groups represented among the advisers was supposed to democratize the flow of information to state decision makers. In reality though, observers say that the advisers, as representatives of different Iraqi groups, are not impartial and act more like partisan lobbyists on a government salary.

As legal expert Atban explained: “Iraq’s parliament should have examined these laws [and] repealed or amended them before implementing the provisions of the current permanent constitution.” Abolishing all of these laws at once, he noted, “requires intensive efforts to find new draft legislation.”

Unless it decides to enact fewer laws than the close to 14,000 it is repealing, the Iraqi parliament will need some time to achieve this. And time, according to critics, is something the parliament does not have a lot of.

Othman al-Juhaishi, a member of parliament for the Iraqiya List, the political coalition that won the most number of seats in last year’s election, has campaigned to end the spring parliamentary holiday which is supposed to start mid-April. Al-Juhaishi, who has organized a petition on the matter for Iraqi members of parliament to sign, says there is just no time for the politicians to take a break. “The conditions in the country do not allow the Parliament to stop convening for two months,” he said, “especially in light of growing popular unrest and the heavy legislative tasks waiting to be addressed.”

He told NIQASH that, “the repeal of Bremer’s, and the dissolved Revolutionary Command Council’s, orders and the drafting of new ones will require months. The spring holidays of parliament will further delay these endeavours.”

Al-Juhaishi pointed out that the Iraqi parliament has a full work load. In addition to abolishing and replacing the former laws, the Parliament is scheduled to issue new laws on such subjects as political parties, oil and gas, the protection of journalists, retired security forces and the Integrity Commission. It is also supposed to follow up on ongoing demonstrations and various corruption cases.

Al-Juhaishi said that cancelling the spring holiday would be in the best interests of the populace and that the decision “should be made to honour the Iraqi people.”

According to members of the parliamentary legal committee, the spring holiday is not too worrying. They are optimistic about finalizing the new laws – including replacements for Bremer’s laws – within four weeks. However the endorsement of any replacement laws might be postponed until next autumn if Parliament decided that MPs should enjoy their full holidays.

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