Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqi Parliament members listen to proceedings during a parliament (representatives council) session, held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, 22 April 2006. After four months of political deadlock, Iraq today got its new Shiite Prime Minister designate Jawad al-Maliki who was immediately tasked with forming the country's first permanent post-Saddam Hussein government within the next 30days. AFP PHOTO/POOL/ALI HAIDER (Photo credit should read ALI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Bahaa al-Araji, the head of parliament’s legal committee, recently accused influential government figures of blocking a law that prohibits high ranking officials from holding dual nationality because it threatens their personal interests.
Al-Araji, a member of the Sadrist bloc, told Niqash that more than 50 parliamentarians, two members of the presidency council and a number of ministers and officials hold a second nationality.
To name just a few, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his successor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, both hold British passports, while Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi holds French nationality.
Many Iraqis say that dual nationality is enabling corruption. Already, a number of leading officials accused of taking part in acts of corruption or terrorism have not been held accountable because they managed to escape the country with their second passport.
Recently, former trade minister, Abdul-Falah al-Sudani, tried to escape the country with his British passport after he was accused of embezzling public funds. While security forces were able to prevent his departure, other figures, such as former ministers of electricity and defence, Ayham al-Samarrai and Hazim Shaalan, escaped Iraqi legal jurisdiction in a similar fashion after having been accused of corruption.
On the back of this controversy a new article is currently being debated in parliament which will require “everyone who assumes a senior position [to] give up any other acquired nationality,” says Iman al-Asadi of the United Iraqi Alliance.
Yet, according to Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish parliamentarian who carries a British passport because he lived in exile in Britain for many years, neither he nor any other Iraqi official carrying a second nationality is violating the law.
At the moment, article 18 of the constitution is not clear on what is and is not permissible.“There is a provision in the constitution which stipulates that an Iraqi may have multiple nationalities and in another paragraph it stipulates that those who assume a senior position must abandon any other acquired nationality,” said Othman. “But there is no law which specifies these senior positions – and this is a mistake made by parliament, not by those carrying a second nationality.”
However Othman did say that, if necessary, he would be willing to give up his second nationality in order to be a parliamentarian or a government official.
But while some figures are defending their dual nationality, other groups, led by the Fadhila bloc, are pushing hard for the new draft law banning the practice to be implemented.
Basim Sharif, a Fadhila parliamentarian told Niqash that “more than 70 signatures of members of parliament have been collected to discuss the draft law in parliament,” but that the “personal interests” of important government figures have blocked progress.
Critics say that much of this opposition is emerging from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where a large number of people hold dual-nationality.