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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

08 March 2004

Bush Hails Adoption of Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law

Law enshrines protection of basic citizen rights

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- President Bush welcomed the signing of the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law March 8, noting that the document enshrines basic rights, "including freedom of religion, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to a fair trial, and the right to choose their own representatives."

"The adoption of this law marks a historic milestone in the Iraqi people's long journey from tyranny and violence to liberty and peace. While difficult work remains to establish democracy in Iraq, today's signing is a critical step in that direction," Bush said.

A senior official in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) noted that the law has "a very substantial Bill of Rights written into the second chapter, which I think the Iraqis can be very proud of as being in the forefront of such a document anywhere in this part of the world."

"The document was not easy to achieve; they had to make lots of compromises. But I think the Iraqis, you could tell at the ceremony today, were justifiably proud of what they had done," the official said.

The Transitional Administrative Law establishes a legal framework for the governance of Iraq during the interim period starting when the CPA restores sovereignty June 30 until a permanent constitution is drafted and a democratically-elected government is established.

The signing of the document had been delayed by a group of Shi'a officials on the Iraqi Governing Council who requested additional time to consult with political and religious leaders. The focus of their concern was a provision within the text that could allow minorities to veto a proposed final constitution when it eventually is brought to a nationwide referendum.

In the end, however, the 25 members of the council adopted the law without any changes, but agreed to continue discussions on the matter.

Iraqi Governing Council Spokesman Hamid Alkifaey remarked, "This was a difficult point in that this group delayed the adoption of the constitution and was concerned with the rule of the majority over the minority. But in the end, the group decided, in Iraq's interest, to sign the Law despite their reservations on this provision."

He went on to say, "We can now look toward the future."

In reference to the concerns raised by the Shi'a members of the Governing Council, a senior coalition official said, "These people have in the course of about three months been able to put together a truly remarkable document. And they were asked, all of them, to make compromises, and they made compromises. And not all of them are happy."

He went on to say, "I'm sure every single one of the 25, if he'd wanted to, could have found something to say about some article that they didn't actually agree on."

"When they went around the table this morning, before we came over to sign it, every single one of them basically said, ‘We all didn't get everything we want, but that's the nature of democracy,'" the coalition official said.

The law defines a legal framework for the functioning of the government during two distinct interim periods.

The first period begins with the handover of sovereignty by the Coalition Provisional Authority June 30 and ends with the election of a National Assembly, preferably by December 2004, but in any case no later than the end of January 2005.

The second period of the transition begins with the establishment of the democratically elected National Assembly and ends with the establishment of an Iraqi government on the basis of a permanent constitution approved by the Iraqi people in a nationwide referendum.

The National Assembly is mandated to draft a proposed permanent constitution by August 15, 2005, and the referendum is to be held no later than October 15, 2005. Assuming the constitution is adopted, elections for the government under the guidelines of the permanent constitution would be held no later than December 15, 2005.

The National Assembly will have 275 seats, and will appoint a president and two deputy presidents. This presidency council will choose a prime minister by unanimity and propose a council of ministers in consultation with the prime minister. This council of ministers will be subject to a confidence vote by the legislature.

The law also provides for an independent judiciary and civilian control over the armed forces.

Iraqi and Coalition officials have welcomed the law's assurances of rights for all Iraqis, and particularly its attention to the rights of women.

According to the text of the law, "the National Assembly shall be elected in accordance with an electoral law and a political parties law. The electoral law shall aim to achieve the goal of having women constitute no less than one-quarter of the members of the National Assembly and of having fair representation for all communities in Iraq, including the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and others."

Alkifaey said, "This constitution is considered one of the most advanced Iraqi documents ever written in its efforts to ensure women their full rights."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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