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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
08 October 2006

IRAQ: Political differences threat country's reconciliation plan

BAGHDAD, 8 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - The fourth in a series of IRIN stories examining the obstacles Iraq faces in implementing its government’s plan to reconcile different sections of Iraqi society.

The status of thousands of prisoners in Iraq who claim they are incarcerated for political reasons is holding up progress on the country’s national reconciliation plan, according to Sunni leaders demanding their pardon and release.

“Anyone who has not been convicted should be released immediately. The only exception would be for those accused of non-political crimes, kidnappings and killings,” said Adnan al-Dulaimi, the head of the country's largest Sunni political block with 44 seats in parliament.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's 24-point reconciliation plan, launched on 25 June this year, promised to pardon detainees who were not involved in terrorist crimes and actions, and war crimes or crimes against humanity. It also promised that committees would be formed to review the files of the detainees so as to release the innocent as fast as possible.

"For more than three months none of that happened and the reconciliation committee has come to a halt," said Abdul-Ghafar Mohamed Salman, a Baghdad-based political analyst and professor at Baghdad University’s college of political sciences. "And this will put more obstacles in the road of the reconciliation plan."

Differences emerged immediately between top Shi’ite and Sunni officials over amnesty for insurgents after the governmental committee, formed to reconcile Iraq's sectarian and political groups, held its first meeting on 22 July. Sunni groups said that all insurgent fighters were only resisting an occupying force and so deserve amnesty.

The Supreme National Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue convened behind the blast walls and barbed wire of the heavily guarded Green Zone, with Al-Maliki and other dignitaries in attendance.

After the meeting, Al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, told reporters that despite his proposal for amnesty for some insurgents, "all those whose hands were tainted with blood should be brought to justice.”

However, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Sunni speaker of parliament, responded quickly saying "if we punish a person who killed an American soldier, who is an occupier, we should punish the American soldiers who killed an Iraqi who fought against occupation.”

Most of the insurgents, or resistance fighters, who have been fighting US-led forces since 2003 are Sunni, although some Shi’ite militias are also opposed to the foreign presence, according to Salman. The US authorities and the Iraqi government have sought to reach out only to Iraqi insurgent groups in the hope of persuading them to lay down their arms. Groups of foreign fighters such as Al-Qa’eda in Iraq are not covered.

Al-Maliki has said that insurgent killers would not escape justice.

"The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions. No, a thousand times no. There can be no agreement with them unless they face justice," Al-Maliki said when he presented his reconciliation plan before parliament for its approval in June.

Al-Maliki said that time spent in prison by detainees who are later released without charge will be compensated by the government paying the affected detainees money that is equivalent to the salary of a soldier doing mandatory military service. He added that he wanted a general pardon for thousands of prisoners who had not committed "crimes and clear terrorist actions.”

Nearly 3,000 prisoners who were said to be “victims of random arrests” were pardoned and released in May in what Busho Ibrahim, the undersecretary in the Justice Ministry, said was a bid by the Shi’ite-dominated government to appease Sunni Arab anger over allegations of random detentions and maltreatment.

However, many more remain in prison.

"This delay is not justified... the committee must go ahead and resolve all issues, especially the pardon one," said Sunni leader Al-Dulaimi.

SM/LS/ED/AR

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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