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Bremer vows no Sharia law in Iraq
Monday 16 February 2004 3:08 PM GMT
Bremer said Sharia can't be law until he 'signs it'
The top US administrator in Iraq has suggested that he would block any interim
constitution that would make Islam the chief source of law.
Paul Bremer on Monday said the current draft of the constitution would make
Islam the state religion of Iraq and "a source of inspiration for the law" - as
opposed to the main source.
Many Iraqi women have expressed fears that the rights they hold under Iraq's
longtime secular system would be rolled back in the interim constitution being
US lawmakers have urged the White House to prevent Islamic restrictions on Iraqi
Asked what would happen if Iraqi leaders wrote into the constitution that Sharia
(Islamic law) is the principal basis of the law, Bremer suggested he would wield
his veto. "Our position is clear. It can't be law until I sign it."
Bremer must sign into law all measures passed by the 25-member council,
including the interim constitution. Iraq's powerful Shia clergy, however, has
demanded the do***ent be approved by an elected legislature.
Under US plans, a permanent constitution would not be drawn up and voted on
Women's rights are to be
enshrined in future constitution
Bremer used the inauguration ceremony at a women's centre in the southern city
of Karbala to argue for more than "token" women's representation in the
transitional government due to take power on 30 June.
"I think it is very important that women be represented in all the political
bodies," Bremer said.
"Women are the majority in this country, in this area probably a substantial
majority," he said, referring to the Saddam Hussein's alleged 1991 purges of
Shia Muslim men. Those killings left the holy city of Karbala and other Shia
cities dotted with mass graves and brimming with thousands of widows.
Enshrining women's rights in a future constitution could be difficult.
Muhsin Abd al-Hamid, the current council president and a member of a
committee drafting the interim constitution, has proposed making Sharia the
"principal basis" of legislation
US observers have predicted liberal reforms introduced in the transitional law
could well be rolled back in a future constitution. Bremer acknowledged that US
influence on an Iraqi constitution would fade after the 30 June handover.
"There will be a sovereign government here in June. The Iraqis then will then
have responsibility for their own country," Bremer said.
There are three women on the Governing Council.
Muhsin Abd al-Hamid, the current council president and a member of a committee
drafting the interim constitution, has proposed making Sharia the "principal
basis" of legislation.
The phrasing could have broad effects on secular Iraq. In particular, it would
likely moot much of Iraq's 1959 Law of Personal Status, which grants uniform
rights to husband and wife to divorce and inheritance, and governs related
issues like child support.
In December, the council passed a decision abolishing the 1959 law and allowing
each of the main religious groups to apply its own tradition - including Islamic
law. Bremer has not signed it into law.