Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Allawi signs emergency law

PV Vivekanand

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
has signed into law sweeping new emergency security
measures aimed at fighting the raging guerrilla war
against US-led coalition forces and their Iraqi
The law called National Safety Law gives Allawi the
power to declare martial law and a state of
emergency, issue arrest warrants, impose curfews,
arrest suspects, ban associations, restrict movement
of foreigners, bar demonstrations, and open mail and
tap telephones.The measures will be temporary and will
apply only in parts of Iraq.
The state of emergency cannot extend past 60 days and
must be dissolved as soon as the danger has ended,
but it can be renewed every 30 days, with a letter of
approval by the prime minister and the president and
deputy presidents. The same applies to curfews, which
could be imposed for limited periods of time in
limited areas.
The law grants Allawi the right to declare emergency
law in "any area of Iraq where people face a threat
to the lives of its citizen because of some people's
permanent violent campaign to prevent the creation of
a government that represents all Iraqis."
Effectively, it changes little on the ground since the
same measures were adopted by the US-led occupation
forces which handed over sovereignty to the interim
government on June 28.
UN Security Council Resolution 1546 of June 8 still
grants the American military many powers to introduce
those measures if it finds fit to do so.
The law is the first concrete move Allawi adopted
after taking over from the US-led forces, which remain
the country to ensure security.
Under the new law, courts would stay open seven days a
week to ensure the interior ministry and police could
obtain arrest warrants.
The government is also expected to announce an
amnesty for those insurgents not directly involved in
guerrilla attacks.
The widely anticipated National Safety Law, which
draws heavily from legislation in force during the
Saddam Hussein reign, had been delayed several times
as the government finalised the details and consulted
with American officials.
The law represents a forceful response to ther
tenacious insurgency and lays the groundwork for a
forceful response to civil unrest. The law was written
with the input of lawyers and the ministers of justice
and of human rights.
Allawi's government has said it also plans to restore
the death penalty, which was suspended during the US
occupation authority's reign that ended on June 28,
but the new law does not contain any reference to it.
Allawi, in interview with a Spanish paper, said on
Wednesday: "We want a restricted death penalty, for a
limited time, until there are elections and Iraqis can
decide for themselves.
He said the interim government had not yet made a
decision on how the death penalty should be
The National Safety Law says the prime minister has
the right to "impose restrictions on the freedoms of
citizens or foreigners in Iraq" in the event of a
"dangerous threat" or "the occurrence of armed
instability that threatens state institutions or its
The prime minister also has the power to take direct
control of all security and intelligence forces in the
area under emergency rule. He can also "appoint a
military or civilian commander to assume
administration of an emergency area" with the help of
an emergency force, as long as the president approves
Restrictions that the prime minister could order
include banning of travel, group meetings and the
possession of weapons.
The law allows for the detention of "those suspicious
by their behaviour and to search them or search their
homes and places of employment and to impose mandatory
residence upon them."
The law states that a 100-member interim national
assembly expected to be formed later this month could
oversee how the law is enforced.
The prime minister's decisions under emergency rule
are subject to the review of the court of appeals,
which can cancel the decisions. The law forbids the
prime minister to cancel the transitional
administrative law during a state of emergency. The
law was signed by American administrators and Iraqi
Governing Council members in early March and functions
as an interim constitution.
.The law prevents the prime minister from exercising
martial powers in the region of Kurdistan without
consulting officials there.
Human Rights Minister Bakhityar Amin said the new law
was an absolute necessity.
"The lives of the Iraqi people are in danger, they are
in danger from evil forces, from gangs from
terrorists," he said. Amin compared the law to the US
Patriot Act.
Justice Minister Malik Dohan Al Hassan said the
premier would need to get warrants from an Iraqi court
before he could take each step.
"We realise this law might restrict some liberties,
but there are a number of guarantees," Hassan said.
"We have tried to guarantee justice and also to
guarantee human rights."
However, the law was needed to combat the insurgents
who are "preventing government employees from
attending their jobs, preventing foreign workers from
entering the country to help rebuild Iraq and in
general trying to derail general elections," he said.

Amin said the human rights and justice ministries will
form a joint body to monitor all areas where the
emergency laws are declared and investigate any
allegations of human rights violations.
Hassan said that in case Iraqi forces are unable to
perform their tasks or are overwhelmed, the Iraqis
"will request the assistance of foreign forces."
A senior US military official speaking on condition of
anonymity, said the Americans believe the new law will
not detract from the efforts of coalition forces here.
"We'll still be able to go out and do our mission,"
the official said. "There may be a requirement or
need for increase of co-ordination with specific rules
and specific measures that are going to be put in
place by the Iraqi government."
The emergency law had been expected to include a
provision providing amnesty for guerrillas who fought
the Americans before the June 28 sovereignty transfer
because their actions were legitimate acts of
Amin, the human rights minister, said the amnesty was
still under discussion and "will be issued soon, as
soon as it's approved by the cabinet and presidential