Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Leaked Draft Iraqi Constitution

Leaks, leaks, leaks. Politicians here in America seem to love leaks - they sometimes use them as a low-risk way to gauge public opinion. You leak something and see how the public reacts to it, if the public hates it, you can deny it (after all, it's just an unsubstantiated leak), but if they like it, you can confirm it.

It seems some politicians in Iraq have discovered the art of the leak also, and sure enough, a draft copy of the new Iraqi bill of rights surfaced a couple of weeks ago. And, Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University was kind enough to put out a translation and commentary.

Of course the other nice thing about leaks is they give guys like me the ability to comment on them before they're official....

I had a look through this draft bill of rights, and while I realize it may change over the next couple of weeks, I am very pleased to see it seems to be heading in the right direction. The first paragraph in this draft bill of rights seems to set the tone for the entire document:

1. a. Iraqis are all equal before the law without regard to gender, opinion, belief, nationality, religion, sect, or origin. Discrimination on the bases of gender, nationality, religion sect, origin, or social position is forbidden. They [Iraqis] have the right to personal security, life, and liberty. Nobody may be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with law.

Personally, after hearing warnings about possible erosion of women's rights and marginalization of certain minority groups (Christians, etc.) in the new Iraqi constitution, seeing this early draft was a pleasant surprise. In addition to equal rights for all, this draft bill of rights guarantees freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and property ownership rights, among others. In fact, on looking through this draft bill of rights, I did not see anything that would have looked out-of-place in the constitution for any modern and progressive democracy (Canada, the United States, Britain, France, etc.). This draft document is definitely a step in the right direction.

I am happy that the authors of the new Iraqi constitution seem to be taking their jobs seriously, and (at least from this leaked draft bill of rights) seem to be building a framework that is equitable for everyone involved. I only hope this trend continues and they are able to reach agreement on a well-balanced constitution by the August 15 deadline.


A more recent draft of the constitution was published earlier this week by the al-Sabah daily newspaper and Omar at Iraq the Model was kind enough to publish an English translation. While I do think Omar is justified in his concern about a couple of paragraphs that designate Islam as the official religion of Iraq, I do still think the overall document is off to a very good start.

As we learned the hard way in Canada ten years ago, a constitution does not have to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough to meet the basic needs of all parties. If you keep haggling over it until you think it is perfect, you will never reach agreement on it, and this disagreement will foment regional fractiousness and discord.