Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A new law passed by Iraq's parliament allowing ex-officials of Saddam Hussein's Ba’ath party to return to public life was greeted warily on Sunday by those it is supposed to benefit, who are still very much concerned they might be discriminated by the current administration or suffer retaliation by their Shia compatriots.
The Justice and Accountability Law, which US President George W. Bush welcomed as an “important step toward reconciliation,” was voted unanimously by the Iraqi parliament (but only 143 MPs out of 275 were present).
Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 the civil service and army were purged of all their Ba’ath Party members, mostly Sunni. This decision left schools and government offices struggling for expertise and provided fertile ground for the anti-US insurgency.
The new law will instead allow thousands of middle-ranking Ba’ath party members to apply for reinstatement to their jobs in the civil service and military, provided they were not convicted of crimes.
A smaller group of more senior members will not be allowed back into public life but, if they have no criminal records, will be retired on pension.
The law also establishes a three-month period for ex-members to be challenged, after which they will be immune from prosecution over the Saddam era.
“It is well known that all wrongdoing Ba’athists escaped the country in the first few months after the US invasion,”" said Abu Ali, a high-ranking official of the former Ba’ath party. “Most of the remaining Ba’athists now have no criminal record. But now anyone can take revenge against a Ba’athist by filing a false lawsuit.”
By contrast, Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a member of parliament for the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), said that the new law “is not retribution against Ba’ath party members. » Instead, “it is aimed at taking a legal stand against criminal individuals of the party. The ordinary members will enjoy their rights.”