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Iraq anti-corruption drive hindered by Saddam-era law, security concerns: US audit

[JURIST] Efforts to combat widespread corruption in Iraq [JURIST news archive] are being hindered by security problems and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's reinstatement of a provision of the country's Saddam-era criminal procedure code [PDF text] allowing ministers to block corruption investigations of their own departments, according to a new US auditor's report [PDF text; materials] transmitted to Congress Monday. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website] Stuart Bowen cited recent figures from Iraq's Commission for Public Integrity (CPI) [ICAC backgrounder] estimating the cost of corruption in Iraq at some $5 billion annually, and reported US findings that the key ministries of Oil, Interior, and Defense were the ones most subject to corruption claims.

Bowen said Iraq had made progress towards its anti-corruption goals, setting up new programs and strengthening existing initiatives, and noted that the CPI had "referred 8 ministers and 40 directors general to the judiciary system in connection with the mismanagement of $8 billion." The CPI nonetheless faced a new limitation as

the Prime Minister’s Office has ordered CPI not to refer to an investigative court any case involving a minister or former minister without prior approval of the Prime Minister. Article 136B in the Iraq Criminal Procedure Code provides that no case can go to trial concerning an issue done in the course of duty without permission of the minister of the affected agency. The law, enacted in 1971, was originally intended to be applied after the Investigative Judge concluded the investigation, but it is currently being used to stop investigations before the decision of the Investigative Judge. The law was suspended under CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] Order 55, but the Prime Minister reinstated it.

[A review] of corruption-related cases showed that ministers have stopped prosecution and investigations on 48 cases involving 102 individuals under Article 136B.
Bowen also noted, however, that "Some observers argue that Article 136B is a necessary check to an anti-corruption effort that has become politicized." AFP has more.

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