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Iraq PM shielding officials from corruption probes: US congressman

[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] has ordered [letter, PDF] that his approval be obtained before any government minister or official from the president's office be charged with corruption, the chair of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] said Thursday. During a committee hearing [COGR materials] on the State Department and the Iraq war, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) made public an April 2007 letter [PDF text] from al-Maliki's office sent to the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity [US State Dept. backgrounder] which states:

It has been decided not to refer any of the following parties to the court until approval of His Excellency, the Prime Minister, is obtained:
    1. Presidential office
    2. Council of Ministers
    3. Current and previous minister
Waxman asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] about the letter, who said she would review the document but noted that the US would not accept any policy that provides immunity to members of the Iraqi government.

The letter was turned over to the committee by Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former chief of the Commission on Public Integrity. Al-Radhi has accused the Iraqi government of protecting corrupt employees and attempting to influence the commission [JURIST report]. He resigned from the commission in September while on official business in the United States, citing the increase in death threats against him and his family, though there have also been corruption allegations against al-Radhi [JURIST report]. The commission was established [press release] in 2004 and has the power to investigate complaints, refer criminal violations to the courts, and propose legislation to address corruption. In April, a US auditor's report [PDF text; JURIST report] found that efforts to combat widespread corruption in Iraq [JURIST news archive] were hindered by security problems and by al-Maliki's reinstatement of a Saddam-era criminal procedure code [PDF text] provision allowing ministers to block corruption investigations of their own departments. AFP has more.

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