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August 24, 2005

The New Iraqi Constitution.

Instapundit has a piece on how disappointed some are on the details of the new Iraqi Constitution. As he says:

My own sense is that this stuff isn't as important as we like to make it. Americans are unusually legalistic and unusually focused on constitutions. But plenty of constitutions have wonderful language on paper (the old Soviet constitution was great that way) and plenty of countries (Britain, for example) manage to get by without written constitutions at all. What matters more is political culture. If the Iraqi people want a free, prosperous country and are willing to work for it, they'll get that. If they don't, or aren't, then they won't.

Quite. Have you seen the old (1990) Iraq Constitution?

Article 13  [Public Property and Planning]
National resources and basic means of production are owned by the People.  They are directly invested by the Central Authority in the Iraqi Republic, according to exigencies of the general planning of the national economy.

A bit scary from my point of view but the Baathists were pan-Arab socialists.

Article 16  [Ownership, Private Property]
(a) Ownership is a social function, to be exercised within the objectives of the Society and the plans of the State, according to stipulations of the law.
(b) Private ownership and economic individual liberty are guaranteed according to the law, and on the basis of not exercising them in a manner incompatible with the economic and general planning.
(c) Private property is not expropriated except for considerations of public interest and for just compensation in accordance with the law.

16(c) actually looks better than US law post Kelo.

Article 20  [Criminal Trial]
(a) An accused is presumed to be innocent, until proved guilty at a legal trial.
(b) The right of defense is sacred, in all stages of proceedings and prosecution.

Fine words.

Article 21  [Penalty, Punishment]
(a) Penalty is personal.
(b) There can be no crime, nor punishment, except in conformity with the law.  No penalty shall be imposed, except for acts punishable by the law, while they are committed.  A severer penalty than that prescribed by the law, when the act was committed, cannot be inflicted.

Better still.

Article 26  [Expression, Association]
The Constitution guarantees freedom of opinion, publication, meeting, demonstrations and formation of political parties, syndicates, and societies in accordance with the objectives of the Constitution and within the limits of the law.  The State ensures the considerations necessary to exercise these liberties, which comply with the revolutionary, national, and progressive trend.

Saddam’s Iraq was a progressive place, was it not?

Article 28  [Educational Goals]
Education has the objective of raising and developing the general educational level, promoting scientific thinking, animating the research spirit, responding to exigencies of economic and social evolution and development programs, creating a national, liberal and progressive generation, strong physically and morally, proud of his people, his homeland and heritage, aware of all his national rights, and who struggles against the capitalistic ideology, exploitation, reaction, zionism, and imperialism for the purpose of realizing the Arab unity, liberty, and socialism.

Would not half the academics of the US sign on for this? Well, maybe not the Arab unity bit although I guess we could ask Professor Cole.

Article 30  [Public Office]
(a) Public office is a sacred confidence and a social service; its essence is the honest and conscious obligation to the interests of the masses, their rights and liberties, in accordance with the rules of the constitution and the laws.
(b) Equality in the appointment for public offices is guaranteed by the law.

30(b) A vital part of any and every constitution that. Makes sure that one doesn’t get to be the Sports Minister or Intelligence Director just because Daddy is President.

Well, I think that makes the point does it not? The words on the paper are not quite so important as how they are interpreted and used. Which is, I think, what the law professor was saying.

August 24, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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» Law from Professor Froward's Slough of Despond
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» Iraq's Constitution from Arthur's Seat
Tim Worstall has a close look at Iraq's current (and previous) constitutions. There is a rule of thumb that the longer the document and the more rights a constitution contains, the more regulated and less free the citizenry. Having a [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 25, 2005 2:13:49 PM


A good constitution might not make good practice, but a bad constitution is only likely to make bad practice worse. E.g. If the constitution says everything must comply with medieval Islamic law, then if you are a woman trying to get some basic rights you're going to have one more obstacle in your way.

Posted by: Natalie Bennett | Aug 24, 2005 7:46:43 PM

If the state ignores the constitution, as did Saddams, then it doesn't matter what the constitution has to say. If the state is legalistic, as any honest state is, then the constitution matters a whole lot.

Posted by: Chris harper | Aug 24, 2005 11:54:51 PM

Have you had a bit of a look at SCIRI and Dawa, the two parties that between them will control the Iraqi legislature?

Posted by: dsquared | Aug 25, 2005 8:32:59 AM

The constitution issue is used (by Bush) to dupe people into thinking that "progress" has been made....I am sure that most people will never know about the old one (enacted in 1970) or even believe Iraq had one in the past.

You missed some other fine words like these:

Article 25 [Religion]
Freedom of religion, faith, and the exercise of religious rites, is guaranteed, in accordance with the rules of constitution and laws and in compliance with morals and public order.

Posted by: Karim | Aug 31, 2005 1:50:09 PM