Alwaght- Approval of the General Amnesty Law by the Iraqi parliament these days is the hot debate topic of the country’s political circles, and the opponents push to beat the supporters of the law in this political struggle by providing valid documents to their argument. Although details of the law have not been leaked out and it is in its early stages, Iraqi media suggest that the “State Administration” coalition consisting of Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF), Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Sunni Sovereignty Bloc and Al-Azm Alliance, and Christian Babylon Movement are in favor of the motion.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a member of the Judicial Commission of the parliament, in an interview with Al-Sumaria News pointed out that the government agreed to approve the General Amnesty Law (GAL) as this was included in the document of the agreement among parties at the time of government formation. He added that all the terms mentioned in this document will be implemented. This lawmaker held that this amnesty is general and a consensus on it has not yet been reached by the political factions during the meetings of the decision-making council.
What do opponents say?
The GAL was one of the main demands of the Sunni factions in the negotiations to form a government coalition last year. Six months after formation of government by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, it remains a matter of debate between Shiite and Sunni factions and no agreement over its areas of coverage has been reached.
Raed Al-Maliki, a member of the parliament’s Legal Commission, said in opposition to the law that it was controversial because of articles and categories it will include. It was brought up while the parliament is busy discussing and approving the budget law. This should not happen, unless there is a political obligation to approve the amnesty and budget laws at the same time.
“The Legal Commission will officially oppose the General Amnesty Law and we warn against approval of this law with the budget at the same time.”
Pointing out that there is no precise number of people to be covered by the amnesty, Aref al-Hamami said: “The law is miscalculated and does not determine how many people it covers or who are to be covered, because there are crimes that are not covered by the amnesty like murder that the murderer should get the amnesty of the family of the murdered person, as well as theft of government property and terrorist crimes with 100 percent proof.
“The provisions of the law are numerous, including retrial of people who have not yet been sentenced and must be retried, and this part has advanced well in parliament, but requires cross-party consensus and then to decide whether it moves according to the law.
Having in mind that the amnesty covers all of prisoners, many fear the release of ISIS terrorists and strongly oppose it. One of the challenging parts of the law on whose amendment the opponents push more is related to the terrorists and members of Baathist regime. Detractors of this law argue that the amnesty law should not provide an excuse to release of these dangerous people.
Despite fears of freedom of ISIS terrorists, member of parliament Aysha al-Masariyah said that there was no difference in the government on the issue and this provision was put in the government agenda and the parliament proposed its consideration by the government. She further said that 90 percent of the draft bill has been completed, adding that “after budget, as we promised, we will deal with the General Amnesty Law for approval.”
Amnesty law for cutting government costs
One of the factors driving the parliament to the amnesty law is the high expenses of running the prisons that put heavy pressure on the government budget. Suffering from economic crisis, the government in recent years tried to cut part of its costs by issuing amnesty to the prisoners. However, some Iraqi experts propose sending these prisoners to rehabilitation and recreation programs after release to prevent their recidivism.
Ali Al-Tamimi, an Iraqi expert, has made some proposals to ease public concerns. He said that the people with corruption crimes should pay compensation because this helps the economy and return of stolen government assets. Also, there should be commutations for those helping revive the government budget, he proposes.
The Iraqi expert also said that foreigners who have committed crimes in Iraq should not be released unless their countries are compensated for the damage they have caused to Iraq, which is what Libya did under former leader Muammar Gaddafi. During the ISIS occupation of parts of Iraq, the citizens of foreign countries fought alongside this terrorist group against government forces and hundreds of them were arrested. In exchange for their return, Baghdad can take compensation from foreign governments.
Iraq issued two general amnesties after Saddam Hussein’s fall. The first one was in 2008 and the second in 2016. At the time, serious opposition was raised to the law but it was approved at the end of the road after considerable tensions.
Amnesty challenges for security of Iraq
Having suffered from internal chaos and insecurity over the past two decades, the Iraqis do not want to see those days return. ISIS terrorists committed unforgivable crimes and the Iraqis want them tried and executed to avoid the same crimes in the future. Therefore, there can be amendments to the articles of the law to ease the concerns of the opponents.
Having in mind that most of the political factions have agreed with draft bill, it seems that it will be approved in the parliament, but the political factions should take into account that the people who are subject to this law should commit to non-recidivism. Because the experience of the amnesty decree proved that the remnants of the Baathist regime who were released from prison reunited with terrorist groups and became problematic to the security and territorial integrity of Iraq, and this time the previous scenario may be repeated, because some people in prison have long-standing enmity with the Iraqi government and are not willing to interact with some political sides.
With Iraq being prone to reemergence of political crises and insecurity, release of terrorists and remnants of the Baathist regime poses a serious threat to the security of the country. In 2016, when a number of Baathists were released, they re-embraced their criminal activities and now are working on destabilizing Iraq beside other militants. If hundreds more ISIS terrorists are released, it would be hard and costly for government to control them. Also, since these people are unemployed, if the government does not provide employment infrastructures for them, they unavoidably return to smuggling and mercenary activities.
Also, the amnesty covers all criminals including drug smugglers, human traffickers, and money launderers, and therefore, its approval conflicts with the UN charter about these crimes.
The release of the terrorists and Baathist criminals will grant the US and Israel the opportunity to re-invest on them and advance their failed project in Iraq. This will put a heavy burden on the resistance groups who have to closely watch the criminal American moves in the region to steer clear of fresh insecurity in Iraq, as well as Syria. American officials suggest that the thousands of ISIS prisoners in Syria and Iraq prisons make a potential powerful army who can be dangerous if released. This indicates the fact that they can make a potential infantry to Washington for destabilizing Iraq afresh.