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December 26, 2007
Iraqi Cabinet passes "General Pardon" Measure
It would certainly be a step forward toward reconcilation if Prime Minister Maliki could shepherd this "General Pardon" through the legislature:
The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday that will offer a general pardon to thousands of prisoners in U.S. military and Iraqi custody, a government spokesman said. The problem has always been the reluctance of the Shia parties in Parliament to grant the Sunnis in Iraq any kind of break whatsoever.
"The cabinet has passed the general pardon law, which will define who is eligible to be freed from all prisons, both Iraqi and American," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.
The law still needs to be approved by parliament. Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, said earlier this month that the draft law was aimed at boosting reconciliation between majority Shi'ite and Sunni Arab Muslims, locked in a cycle of violence.
The issue of detainees in both U.S. and Iraqi jails is one of the most sensitive, especially as detentions have soared since military operations were stepped up this year. The Iraqi authorities now hold 24,000 detainees and U.S. forces 26,000. Critics say only a small proportion of those held are ever prosecuted.
The oil revenue sharing bill is a perfect example. Passed by the cabinet last year, it still languishes in a parliament that refuses to deal with the measure until Saddam era Sunni criminals are dealt with. The desire for vengance appears to override the need for unity in this and all other cases where Parliament has been asked to work toward reconciling with the Sunni minority.
Perhaps the lessening of violence will change a few minds in Parliament. But judging by what leading Shias have said about reconciliation, it would appear that Prime Minister Maliki has a tough sell on his hands with this new effort to bring the country together.