Iraq moves to seal Saddam-era files

2012-09-26 12:01
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Baghdad - The terror of Saddam Hussein's secret police has lived on long after his fall through their millions of reports, which are still dragged up by Iraqi politicians and the media, often with damaging results.

But Saad Iskander, the head of Iraq's national archives, thinks the documents have been used for long enough, and is pushing legislation that would criminalise their release without the consent of the people they concern.

"Baath party officials, the secret organisations, the secret police, they all received and wrote millions and even billions of reports on ordinary people, party officials," Iskander said.

It was "an awful dictatorship that dominated all aspects of life, not only through terror but also through documentation and spying".

But unlike in Germany, where an agency was set up after reunification to process the documents of the former East Germany's Stasi secret police, Iraq saw its archives dispersed to the four winds after Saddam's overthrow by a 2003 US-led invasion.

The US Pentagon obtained 48 000 boxes of documents and the Central Intelligence Agency acquired millions of papers, as did Iraqi political parties, individuals and the media, Iskander said.

Media dissuaded

Almost 10 years after Saddam's fall, the documents are still posing problems.

"Some documents published in the press named people who were executed, and when, and where," Iskander said. "They didn't conceal the names of the victims."

"We don't have the right to publish the names of the victims and of those who committed the crimes," he said. "This is up to them."

Iskander also condemned the actions of some political parties, which have threatened to release documents allegedly showing candidates from opposing parties were members of Saddam's now-banned Baath party.

"We have dissuaded some media from using the archives, but it is impossible to put pressure on the political parties... unless we have a law that allows it," he said.

So Iskander has prepared and submitted a draft law that, if adopted by parliament, would criminalise the publication of Saddam-era documents without the consent of those concerned.


"This law will organise the level of access to information. Some information will be disclosed to the prime minister, some to the judges. But not everybody will have access to all information," he said.

"This wealth of information, those documents, are a weapon. It can be used and abused."

Iskander said the draft law provides for penalties including fines and prison sentences for those who release documents without authorisation, although he declined to reveal the details as the draft was still under review.

When asked by AFP about the issue, Iraqi government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said the government would support such a law.

Iskander's proposal is also viewed kindly within the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which saw some of its candidates face bans in the run-up to 2010 parliamentary polls over allegations of Baathist ties.

But Haidar al-Mullah, a leading Iraqiya MP, criticised the government for the lengthy "de-Baathification" process and termed the need for a law such as that proposed by Iskander "a failure of the government".

Freedom of the press

De-Baathification "was for a specific period and should be ended. It is not logical that after 10 years we are still in the cycle of de-Baathification", Mullah said.

And while some support Iskander's initiative, others warn that the proposed new law could place limits on freedom of the press.

"How can we remain silent when we see a document about former Baath party members which carries information about a genocide?" asked Ziad al-Ajili, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi watchdog.

"Remaining silent is a crime. The crime is not to publish these documents," Ajili said.

Read more on:    saddam hussein  |  iraq

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


It’s THIS easy for someone to steal you ATM pin!

Can you spot the moment the girl’s pin is stolen?


For chic geeks...

Check out the speed of this robo-cheetah!
New GIF keyboard on iOS for added fun!
Puppy goes crazy over iPad game
Printable solar panels will bring exciting new opportunities!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region


Western Cape
Hire Resolve

Marketing Director

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Switch Consultants (Pty) Ltd
R1 200 000 - R1 500 000 Per Month

Financial Accountant

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town Finance
R180 000 - R225 000 Per Year

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is a tendency to fight against the current today but this will just use up a lot of energy and not get you very far. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.