Iraq adopts law legalising Shi'ite militias

2016-11-26 19:49
(Khalid Mohammed, AP)

(Khalid Mohammed, AP)

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Baghdad - Iraq's parliament on Saturday voted to accord full legal status to government-sanctioned Shi'ite militias as a "back-up and reserve" force for the military and police and empower them to "deter" security and terror threats facing the country like the Islamic State group.

The legislation, supported by 208 of the chamber's 327 members, was promptly rejected by Sunni Arab politicians and lawmakers who said it was evidence of what they called the "dictatorship" of the country's Shi'ite majority.

"The majority does not have the right to determine the fate of everyone else," Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq's three vice presidents and a senior Sunni politician, told a news conference after the vote.

"There should be genuine political inclusion. This law must be revised".

Sunni lawmaker Ahmed al-Masary said the legislation fuels doubts about the participation of all Iraqi communities in the political process. "The legislation aborts nation building," he said, adding that the law created a dangerous parallel to the country's military and police and that the Shi'ite bloc in parliament has not provided the Sunnis with the assurances they required.

National unity

Many in the Sunni Arab community wanted the militiamen to be integrated into the country's military and police, a proposition long rejected by Shi'ite militia leaders, some of whom have on occasion spoken about their armed groups evolving into a force akin to Iran's Revolutionary Guards or Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The law, tabled by the chamber's largest Shi'ite bloc, placed the militias under the command of Shi'ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and gave militiamen salaries and pensions that mirror those of the military and the police.

Senior Shi'ite politician Amar al-Hakim sought to reassure the Sunni lawmakers, saying a host of laws to be issued by the prime minister to regulate the work of the militias would allay their fears.

"The law creates a suitable climate for national unity," he said.

The vote comes at a sensitive time when the government is waging a major campaign to dislodge ISIS from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and the last major urban centre still held by the extremist group. The government, through the military, has been trying to use the campaign to reassure the city's mostly Sunni residents, promising them a life free of the atrocities and excesses of the extremist ISIS.


Read more on:    isis  |  iraq

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