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Iraqis Debate The Reach Of De-Ba'athification Law

An election campaign placard with a slogan reading, 'There is no way for the Ba'ath to return to Iraq'
BAGHDAD -- Officials responsible for Iraq's de-Ba'athification process say not all ministries and state institutions have complied with the measures aimed at purging those with links to the regime of Saddam Hussein and his disbanded Ba'ath Party, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Ali Allami, the executive director of the Accountability and Justice Commission, told RFI on April 3 that the commission "will now take measures against the ministers who did not apply [de-Ba'athification] measures" to its employees, adding that these officials will be referred to the Integrity Commission.

But Abdul Halim Ahmad, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers' National Reconciliation Committee, disagrees with such actions by the commission. Ahmad told RFI that de-Ba'athification is meant only to target the "Saddamists" and Ba'athists -- those who committed crimes against the people of Iraq -- not officials blamed for not prosecuting them.

Ahmad added that 60,000 people were forced from their positions in state institutions for being former Ba'athists or having connections to Hussein. But he said that 45,000 later returned to their jobs.

He said the National Reconciliation Committee is insisting that the files of those returnees not be reopened again unless it is proven that they have renewed their connections with Ba'athist organizations or terrorists.

Allami said his commission does have new evidence that sheds light on the status of some officials who are still working or returned to work in government institutions. He said he wants those people to be within the purview of the de-Ba'athification law.

But legal expert Tariq Harb told RFI that the Iraqi Constitution says who is to be included in the de-Ba'athification process.

"Article 135 of the constitution is very clear," he said. "It says being a former member of the Ba'ath Party does not justify legally prosecuting a person and such people have all the rights of any other Iraqi."

After Saddam's fall in 2003, Iraqi security forces and state institutions were purged of members of the Sunni-dominated Ba'ath Party.

In January of this year, a panel led by Shi'ite lawmakers banned more than 400 election candidates connected to the Ba'ath Party, causing uproar among many Sunnis.

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