Iraq Approves Security Law Allowing Martial Rule
Insurgents, Iraqi and U.S. Forces Engage in a Rare Daytime Battle
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 7, 2004; 1:41 PM
BAGHDAD, July 7 -- Iraq's interim government announced a new national security law on Wednesday that will allow Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to exercise broad powers of martial rule to combat a persistent insurgency.
The law gives Allawi "extraordinary authorities" to declare curfews, restrict communications, seize assets, restrict civic associations and assume direct command of security forces in areas deemed to be emergency zones. In those places, police and military units would have the freedom to search and detain people without judicial orders.
"The deteriorating security situation requires these laws," Justice Minister Malik Dohan Hassan said at a news conference. "The security situation threatens all fields of life."
As the plan was announced, several suspected insurgents engaged in a rare daytime gun battle with Iraqi and U.S. forces in central Baghdad. Health Ministry official Saad Amili told the Associated Press that four people were killed and 20 injured in the battle, which reportedly included the use of U.S. Apache helicopters.
Earlier on Wednesday, a volley of mortars landed near a residence used by Allawi and his political party headquarters, injuring six people. Iraqi police also defused a massive car bomb elsewhere in the capital.
Although the law will give Allawi new latitude to combat insurgents, the prime minister had sought even tougher measures, some of which were stripped out of early drafts because of objections from other members of the interim government and from foreign governments, said a senior Iraqi government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity.
The law will restrict the prime minister's power by requiring any declaration of emergency rule to have the consent of the country's president and its two vice presidents. Iraq's highest court also will be able to overturn the declarations.
The country's human rights minister, Baktiar Amin, compared the new Iraqi law to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, the U.S. law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that gives broader powers to law enforcement authorities in pursuit of suspected terrorists. "Similar laws have been enacted in a number of countries," Amin said.
He said the law, which was approved by Allawi's 32-member cabinet and signed by the prime minister on Tuesday, was necessary because of the "severe dangers that threaten Iraq." Amin he would monitor implementation of the law closely and would investigate allegations of human-rights violations in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice. "We have tried to guarantee justice and human rights," he said.
The new law is the most significant undertaking by Allawi since his interim government assumed political authority with the departure of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer on June 28. Allawi has told his advisers and U.S. diplomats that he intends to pursue insurgents with a greater variety of strategies than those employed by the U.S. military.
People close to Allawi have said he wants to rely on a network of intelligence agents and informants to focus military operations on suspected insurgent hideouts instead of conducting neighborhood-wide raids as U.S. forces have done.
Allawi and his advisers regard the new security law as an important tool to implement that strategy. It would allow the interim government to effectively isolate violence-wracked areas by cutting off telephone communications, transportation links and mail; restricting the activities of civic associations, clubs and other organizations; seizing the assets of people accused of participating in the insurgency and banning public demonstrations.
The national security law will give Allawi the power to take charge of Iraqi security forces in areas under martial law, allowing him effective command of military operations. "The Armed Forces, Emergency Forces, Special Forces, Civil Defense Forces, Internal Security Forces and the Security, Intelligence and Military Intelligence Services in the area where a state of emergency is declared shall report directly to the Prime Minister during the period of the declared state of emergency," the law states.
Allawi also will have the ability, with the approval of the presidency council, to immunize individuals from prosecution and order them released from detention if he believes it would promote stability.
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