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Iraq parliament undertakes raucous first reading of de-Baathification reform bill

[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament Sunday conducted a preliminary reading of a proposed law [JURIST report] that would allow former Baath Party [party website, in Arabic; BBC backgrounder] members not convicted of any crimes to return to their previously held government positions, participate in the political process, and serve in the civil and military service. Hardline Shiite lawmakers allied with cleric Moqtada al-Sadr noisily rejected the law, however, deriding it as unconstitutional. Legislators originally introduced the Justice and Accountability Law in March, and it had been scheduled for a vote before the Iraqi National Assembly [official website] Wednesday following an additional reading, although it is not now clear if that will still take place. The White House's most recent Benchmark Assessment Report [PDF text; JURIST report] in September found satisfactory progress on reforming the de-Baathification process in Iraq, while conceding little progress had been made by the Iraqi government toward accomplishing the rest of the 18 "benchmarks" thought to be essential to Iraq's stability. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage and an update.

Supporters of the draft measure are looking for a way to reinstate [JURIST report] former Baath party members who say they joined the party for professional reasons; Hussein only allowed university enrollment, career progression and specialized medical aid to those who were members of his party. Despite provisions in the proposal that would prevent reemployment of former Baathists who have been charged with, or are sought for, criminal activities, several Shiite leaders oppose the draft law [JURIST report] as a "dangerous" undertaking to return former regime members - many of the Sunnis - to leadership positions in the government. Without approval by Shiite religious leaders, the proposed law has little chance of being passed by the Iraqi National Assembly since Shiites currently hold the majority of the parliamentary seats and often vote according to the advice of their religious leaders. Some Kurds, who were also suppressed by Hussein's Baathist regime, oppose the draft law as well.

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