An important test in Iraq

Our friend Dafydd ab Hugh points us to an under-reported story from Iraq, which may tell us a great deal about where that country is headed. It seems that two former Health Ministry officials, both Shiites, have been charged in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds of Sunnis, many of them snatched from hospitals by militias. An Iraqi judge has ruled that there’s enough evidence to try the two former officials. However, under Iraqi law the Health Ministry has the power to block the prosecutions by asserting that the defendants were “carrying out their official duties” when they committed the acts of which they are accused. Such an assertion would be absurd, of course, but apparently it would also be unreviewable. In fact, the powerful Interior Ministry has used this power to prevent the prosecution of murderers within its ranks.
Clearly, this is an important test of the Iraqi government’s willingness to administer justice even-handedly without regard to sectarian considerations. If the prosecutions go forward — and they would be the first of their kind involving high ranking Shiites accused of sectarian violence — they will send a strong signal to Sunnis that the national govenment is not a sham. If the prosecutions are blocked, the contrary view will be reinforced.
Stay tuned.

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