BAGHDAD, Iraq – A day after Saddam Hussein was sentenced to hang, the country's Shiite-dominated government declared a major concession to his Sunni Muslim backers that could see thousands of purged Baath Party members reinstated to their jobs.
The Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification has prepared a draft law with the amendments and will soon send it to parliament for ratification, the commission's executive director, Ali al-Lami told The Associated Press Monday.
"We decided to make the announcement after the Saddam verdict so that the de-Baathification commission would not be accused of bias," al-Lami said.
The amendments are in harmony with a 24-point national reconciliation plan that was announced in June by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in which he called for reviewing the de-Baathification program, al-Lami said. Al-Maliki's reconciliation plan aims to end an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Before the amendments were drawn up, the organization listed names of 10,302 senior Baath Party members who were to be fired but the new proposed law includes only 1,500 names, al-Lami said. Those who will lose their jobs will get retirement pensions, he said.
He said that 7,688 have been fired since the organization was established in January 2004.
Members of Saddam's elite dissolved security agencies as well as members of the paramilitary Saddam's Fedayeen that were run by the former president's late son, Odai, are not the work of the organization but the prime minister's office, al-Lami said.
Many Sunni Arabs here say that the de-Baathification process was aimed to remove members of their sect, that ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of Saddam, from state institutions but al-Lami strongly denied such accusations saying that more Baathists from the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq lost their jobs than in Sunni areas in the center.
The United States dissolved and banned the formerly ruling Baath party in May 2003, a month after toppling Saddam, but later softened its stance, inviting former high-level officers from the disbanded military to join the security forces. The former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, also allowed thousands of teachers who were Baathists to return to work.
Since it was founded, the de-Baathification committee vetted thousands of former Baathists who returned to work while others who proved to be senior Baath Party members were sacked.