[JURIST] Iraq's three-member Presidency Council said Sunday that a bill allowing most former members of Saddam Huessein's Baath party to be reinstated to public life has become law. The controversial Accountability and Justice Law [ICTJ backgrounder, PDF], passed by the Iraqi parliment earlier this month, has been publicly endorsed [JURIST reports] by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Presidency Council members President Jalal Talibani and Vice President Adel Abdul-Madhi. The third member of the council, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, however, objected [JURIST report] to the law on the grounds that it would displace new government employees that took their positions after the ouster of the dictatorial Baathist regime in 2003, and would require the dismissal of an additional 7,000 former Baathists from current security forces. Under Iraqi law, the presidency council had ten days to review and discuss the law after its passage, and because it did not explicitly and unanimously reject the bill, it becomes effective despite the disagreement. As a compromise, the Presidency Council said it would suggest amendments to the law for passage by parliament. In addition to the window for reinstatement, the law also provides for a seven-judge panel to hear appeals by former Baathists that have been dismissed. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.
Iraq set up a De-Baathification Commission [official website] in 2003 with the approval of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [official website], and its early agenda was rooting out members of Hussein's Baath party from positions of power in the Iraqi government, prompting the forced removal [JURIST report] of approximately 30,000 Baathists from public life. The Bush administration, however, urged the Iraqi government to shift the commission from outright prohibition to "accountability and reconciliation" in the interests of countering the growing insurgency in the country. Passage of de-Baathification reform legislation was praised by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and is the first of 18 as-yet-unmet benchmarks identified by the White House last year as important steps towards stability [JURIST reports]. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has previously called the bill "dangerous" and the bill's passage stalled as recently as late November 2007 [JURIST reports].