The Iraqi government announced on Wednesday that it has decided to formally revoke the immunity from prosecution granted to private security companies operating in the war-ravaged country.
“The cabinet held a meeting yesterday and decided to scrap the article pertaining to security companies operating in Iraq that was issued by the CPA (Coalition Provision Authority) in 2004,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
“It has decided to present a new law regarding this issue which will be taken in the next cabinet meeting.”
Article 1 of Section 2 of CPA order 17 issued by then US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, stipulates that the “multinational force, foreign liaison missions, their personnel, property, funds and assets and all international consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process.”
Iraqi authorities have been venting over Order 17 as long as I have covered the issue. I listened to a Justice Ministry official explain to me why it was illegal one afternoon last spring. But to that I had a simple response: if the Government opposes the Order, nothing stops it from putting through legislation that will repeal it. And up until recently, the Government had been all talk and no action in this regard.
But the process was admittedly not an easy one. CPA Order 17, though issued with the authority of one man—Paul Bremer—has the status of a law, as I read the arrangements surrounding the transfer of authority from June 28, 2004. And that means that a decision of the cabinet to “scrap” it would not be effective. The step should be taken by the parliament (Council of Representatives, in Arabic “Majlis an-Nuwwab” or “???? ?????? ???????”) which exercises the legislative power, including the power to amend or repeal existing laws. Of course the parliament has been virtually dysfunctional up to this point, so the government’s recourse to a cabinet decision as an alternative can be understood. But is it more than a symbolic act?