Sunday, September 25, 2005

Revisionist Constitutionality

The draft constitution for Iraq that has been published in the Western press has been widely reviewed and commented upon by many individuals. There have been ongoing revisions to the constitution. The most recent version was released internally on Sept. 13th. This version has not been disseminated to either Western or Iraqi press or to the Iraqi public. CPT Iraq was sent a copy by a contact in the government. While much of the document is similar and most changes are more in terms of replacing a word or two there are some significant differences.

Perhaps the most dramatic change is the omission of a section of the “Transitional Provisions.”

The published draft reads:
1. “It is forbidden for Iraq to be used as a base or corridor for foreign troops.”2. “It is forbidden to have foreign military bases in Iraq.”
3. “The National Assembly can, when necessary, and with a majority of two-thirds of its members allow events stated in #1 and #2 to take place.”This provision is completely missing from the current unpublished version.

Perhaps a more subtle change is in the “Fundamental Principles” section. In the published draft, Article 2 states: “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” In the unpublished current version, the article reads, “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.” Now this may be splitting hairs but Iraqis have said that “undisputed” would imply Islamic law that is recognized by both Sunni and Shi’a. The word “established” would imply that law that exists in one branch but not the other would be considered the basis of national law. This could create serious tensions if a Sunni or Shi’a were required to obey a national law that is outside of their particular faith tradition.

Financial issues play a major role in the constitution and there is a significant contradiction in two sections of the unpublished current version. In the “Powers of the Regions” the second clause of Article 117 states, “Regions and governorates shall be allocated an equitable share of the national revenues [as a clarification oil revenue is considered national revenue] sufficient to discharge its responsibilities and duties.” But there is an addition to the unpublished current version in reference to oil and gas revenues that states, “A quota shall be defined for a specific time for affected regions that were deprived in an unfair way by the former régime or later on.” In other words the Kurdish region or a new Shi’a region in the south could get the lion’s share of oil revenues for years while the Sunni central region gets but a pittance.

This document is not available to the people of Iraq at this time (Sept. 24th) and yet they will be asked to go to the polls and vote on it in 23 days. Is this democracy or yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of sectarian and religious divisiveness in the country?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Back to the Future

Back in the days of Saddam, religious and ethnic persecution was commonplace. Shi’as were subjected to detention and harassment by Sunni led police and military and in some cases injured or killed simply because of their religious tradition. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 there are allegations that Shi’a organizations such as the Al Dawa Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq create arrest lists (with no charges listed) that have 97% of the names listed being Sunni. These lists are handed over the Sh’ia led military and police commandos who detain individuals without any due process. Human rights groups have alleged that many Sunni’s who have been found murdered execution style are individuals who are victims of this process.

Back in the days of Saddam, there were periodic shortages of fuel, which resulted in a rationing system of only driving your car on alternate days depending on the last digit of your license plate. It was not unusual for a home to be without electricity for four to six hours a day. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 driving on alternate days has returned to a country with 23% of the world’s know petroleum reserves. It is not unusual for a home to be without electricity for up to 12 or 14 hours every day.

Back in the days of Saddam, there were a number of secret police organizations that operated without oversight from any government agency. They would detain, torture and sometimes kill Iraqis who were seen as posing a threat to the continued authority of Saddam and his cronies. Back to future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 the secret police organizations have returned. One such secret police organization is called the Wolf Brigade. In May of 2005 there was a car bombing at a bus station in Baghdad. The Wolf Brigade made a raid on a Palestinian complex the same night and arrested four Palestinian men. A neighbor said he overheard one of the brigade members say, “Is four Palestinians enough?” They were taken to a prison and tortured and then shown on television the next day, confessing to the car bombing. A lawyer hired by their families was able to visit them several weeks later (after paying a bribe to prison officials). He found them in the same clothing they had been arrested in, with burn and bruise marks over much of their bodies.

Back in the days of Saddam there was such a multiplicity of ministries and bureaucracies that even Confucius would have been astounded. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 the Christian Peacemaker Team must renew its official NGO status every three months. There is a new ministry, the Ministry of Civil Society (MoCS), which now handles NGO issues. The team went to the MoCS with its quarterly report but was told by the MoSC that foreign NGOs must now get a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) that recognizes them as a legitimate foreign NGO. When the team went to the MoFA to get such a letter the team was told by officials at the MoFA that first they needed to get a letter from the MoCS authorizing the MoFA to write the letter requested by the MoCS.

A friend the team summed up the “new” Iraq by saying, “We’ve seen all this before.”