Iraqi parliament votes to ban the Baath party
The Iraqi parliament on Saturday night voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill banning the Baath Party from any political activity in the country.
The vote comes amid weeks of turmoil in the country’s capital following a series of suicide attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group which killed more than 250 Iraqi civilians.
Besides banning the party the bill outlawed any “entities that profess or promote racism, terrorism, sectarianism or sectarian cleansing”.
It also bans political groups that promote ideas that contradict democracy and peaceful transition of power, without naming any particular group.
In a video address to the Iraqi people, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said: “Banning the Baath party is a great success for the nation and families of martyrs in Iraq because this party committed the most vicious crimes.”
"We want to confirm that there is no place for those who brutalised our population and we are on the path to defeating the terrorist gangs and those who assist them," added the prime minister.
The text of the bill said: “This decree includes other parties who have similar ideas and political messages to the Baath party.”
The bill also stated that “anybody caught implementing policies of the Baath party will be put in jail for at least 10 years. And those who have held hands with the party will receive life imprisonment".
The Baath party was previously banned by the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003, which was put into power by the United States and other nations after former president Saddam Hussein was ousted.
Hussein's Baath party came to power in 1968 following a coup led by Hussein - who was the party's assistant general secretary at the time.
Supporters of the former ruling party were purged from every public institution in the country in what has been described as a "de-baathification" process.
Following the purges of all public insitutions, many low level government employees have said that they joined the party simply to find employment as opposed to ideological sympathy.
Some commentators have dismissed the Iraqi parliament's latest move by questioning whether the party still poses a threat to everyday Iraqis.
Kurdish Iraqi journalist Mohammed Salih in a tweet asked: “Is the Baath Party still such a grave threat to Iraq or is it because the Parliament doesn’t have anything to do?"
Former British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, has previosuly cricitised the "de-Baathification" process that led to the dismantling of the Iraqi army, by saying that "many of the problems we see in Iraq today stems from that disastrous decision".
He has also said: “It is clear a significant number of former Baathist officers have formed the professional core of Daesh [Islamic State] in Syria and Iraq and have given that organization the military capability it has shown in conducting its operations.”