BAGHDAD, Iraq – A long-awaited amnesty plan intended to help end the 15-month-old insurgency in Iraq will not cover fighters who have killed anyone, a government official said Wednesday.
The government originally proposed the amnesty (search) as part of a carrot-and-stick package to end the violence; the insurgents would be forgiven for their past crimes, but those who continued killing could be executed under a planned death penalty law.
But the amnesty, which was expected to have been announced soon after the interim Iraqi government took office June 28, has been delayed repeatedly, and subsequent drafts have narrowed the list of those eligible. Officials still were uncertain about when it might take effect.
"The amnesty covers those Iraqis who have not committed killings, who have been deceived into joining the resistance and who are now convinced that they made a mistake. We welcome them," said Georges Sada, spokesman for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search).
"Anyone who committed the crime of murder will not be covered by the amnesty."
Iraqi officials had said the amnesty might extend to those who killed U.S. and other coalition troops. U.S. officials said an early draft contained ambiguous language on that issue, but later drafts ruled it out.
Sada said the debate over the amnesty had nothing to do with U.S. pressure and that killers were never to have been covered by the amnesty.
"We have sovereignty. We don't go and ask the Americans how to act every time," he said. "Nobody at all has pressured us."
Sada said the amnesty plan was "fully completed" but still needed to be signed by Allawi, who returned Tuesday from a Middle East tour.
Those who could benefit from the amnesty include insurgents who stashed heavy weapons at their homes or drove cars used in attacks without killing anyone themselves, Sada said. He added that they should turn in their weapons and denounce the resistance.
Experts have said some type of amnesty was needed to coax Iraqi nationalist guerrillas to the government's side and separated them from fighters using terrorist-style bombings.
Some militants have opposed the concept of amnesty as insulting, saying they were legitimately fighting against the foreign occupation of their country and do not need forgiveness.
The interim government has coupled the amnesty proposal with tough talk about emergency laws and reintroducing the death penalty, suspended during the U.S. occupation, to punish militants.
"We will be tough on those who violate the law so that we can put an end to the ... unrest in the country, and thus we have to give a chance to those who want to take it," Sada said. "We will deal with those who don't want to take this chance."
President Ghazi al-Yawer (search) said Wednesday the amnesty would have to precede reinstatement of the death penalty.
"The death penalty shall be issued, but before it, there shall be an amnesty," he said. "The rule is amnesty, and the exception is the death penalty."
Al-Yawer, whose position is mostly ceremonial, also urged the government to employ an emergency law passed last month giving Allawi the power to impose curfews and declare limited martial law.
"It's high time that we put the National Safety Law into practice," he said.