First Published: 2013-04-07


Iraq cabinet makes concessions on de-Baathification law


Cabinet unveils sweeping reforms to law barring members of Baath party from public life as part of moves to placate angry rallies by Sunnis.


Middle East Online

By Ammar Karim and Salam Faraj – BAGHDAD

Will Maliki challenge Sunnis’ demands?

Iraq's cabinet unveiled sweeping reforms to a law barring members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life on Sunday as part of moves to placate angry rallies by the country's Sunnis.

The amendment to the De-Baathification law still needs to be approved by parliament, where it is expected to face stiff opposition, but it is among a raft of concessions to demonstrators who have alleged that the Shiite-led authorities unfairly target the Sunni community.

The protests since December lie at the heart of a political dispute that has pitted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is Shiite, against several of his erstwhile national unity government partners, in particular those from Sunni and Kurdish parties.

Ministers on Sunday approved a draft amendment that would allow Baath party branch chiefs, or firqa-level members, to rejoin the civil service, and would provide for pension payments for many members of the Fedayeen Saddam, a paramilitary organisation loyal to the now-ousted dictator.

It would also put a time limit on the law, ensuring that only names blacklisted by the end of 2013 would be restricted from public life.

In all, the draft law would allow thousands of people to either enter the civil service or receive pensions.

Cabinet also approved amendments to laws on the use of secret informants and the seizure of property, both of which are major frustrations to the Sunni Arab community.

"Cabinet today approved an important amendment to the law of Justice and Accountability," Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak said in a statement summarising the reforms, referring to the formal name for Iraq's De-Baathification law.

"This law has excluded many talented people and prevented the country from (benefiting from) their services."

Critics have said the existing rules are too broad-reaching, disproportionately target Sunni Arabs, who were largely in power during Saddam's rule, and could theoretically be applied in perpetuity.

In particular, Sunni Arab protesters have railed against the law during months of protests alleging that anti-terror legislation is used to target their minority.

"This is a step towards moving to a new phase, away from phobia of the Baath party," said Ihsan al-Shammari, a politics professor at Baghdad University. "I think the government made a good move here."

But, Shammari said, the proposal was likely to face opposition in the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq that, along with the northern Kurdish region, faced the brunt of Saddam's wrath.


Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey

Tunisia group claims beheading of young shepherd on behalf of ISIS

Kerry arrives in Abu Dhabi for Syria discussions

Three Palestinians killed as fresh violence hits West Bank

Iran arrests ISIS-linked cell near Iraq border

Brussels remains on high alert for second day in a row

Israel seeks to strip citizenship of those who join ISIS

France warns Libya as ISIS gains ground

Fear escalates as ISIS edges closer to Syria Christian town