[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] on Saturday approved a bill that will allow most members of Saddam Hussein's now-defunct Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] to be reinstated to public life. The law, known as the Justice and Accountability Law, was introduced by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] last March and was passed unanimously by the 143 Shiite and Sunni lawmakers present during the vote. The law distinguishes between former Baath party officials who have been charged with crimes for their role in the implementation of the party's oppressive policies – still barred from reinstatement – and those members who joined out of necessity and are now free to reapply for positions in the government and military. Under the new law, officials banned from reinstatement will collect pensions.
Iraq set up a DeBaathification 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 nearly 30,000 Baathists from public life. The Bush administration, however, has 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 noted by the White House last year as an as-yet-unmet benchmark [JURIST report] of Iraqi progress towards stability. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani previously called the bill "dangerous" [JURIST report] and its ratification process had stalled [JURIST report] as recently as late November. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.