Immoral amendments of Iraq’s amnesty law

Adnan Hussein

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The present Iraqi government inherited a huge budget deficit due to the unbridled corruption of former governments and a precipitous fall in oil prices.

However, the ongoing but ineffective austerity program could achieve many of its desired results and save hundreds of billions of dinars a year if it simply downsizes the country’s gargantuan judiciary, beginning with the office of the chief justice down to the lowest-ranking court functionary.

In fact, we no longer need the judiciary or judges as we already have 328 members of parliament, who have assigned unto themselves the authority of judges, as they now adjudicate as to who must be jailed or fined and who should not be tried.

Instead of spending huge sums on the judiciary and its employees, let these members of parliament act as officials of the judiciary in addition to their legislative and regulatory responsibilities.

Crimes of terror, corruption

Last year, the parliament approved a general amnesty law that allows the grant of amnesty to Sunni terrorists in lieu of pardoning members involved in corruption from members of the Shiite community.

The law is the outcome of long and sustained efforts by Shiite parties, as most convicts or offenders involved in corrupt administrative and financial activities (public funds embezzlement, money laundering, fraud etc.) are linked to them. Meanwhile, most convicts or wanted men involved in terrorist activities are affiliated with Sunni parties.

The amendments which members of parliament are trying to introduce in the general amnesty law are immoral

Adnan Hussein

Mutual interests dictated Sunni and Shiite parties, which have for long efficiently managed their conflicts of incitement and sectarian hatred, agree on the amnesty law. These parties are now working on further amending this law by including more categories of offenders, whether involved in acts of corruption or terrorism, so that they never land behind bars.

The parliament now seeks to limit prosecuting those acts of terrorism, which were committed after June 10, 2014, i.e. when the terrorist ISIS organization occupied Mosul. Thus attempts are being made to discard those acts of terrorism which plagued the country for over a decade before 2014.

There is also a legislative bid to absolve those high-ranking officials who had produced fake degrees to achieve their current positions. To the parliament, a forged degree is a simple mistake where the payment of a fine is sufficient punishment.

What does this mean?

It means that the efforts of hundreds of judges who had earlier issued their just verdicts against corrupt men and terrorists will now go in vain. The efforts of their aides and general prosecutors will also come to naught.

Maybe they may now have to apologize to the corrupt men and terrorists for issuing verdicts and sentences against them in the first place. One wonders whether they may they may have to pay some compensation to the erstwhile convicts.

The amendments which members of parliament are trying to introduce in the general amnesty law are immoral. The amnesty law as it stands today is also immoral. Both the law and the proposed amendments seem to incentivise falsehood and injustice.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

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