Iraqis demand barring dual nationals from top official posts
Baghdad - The Iraqi parliament in October postponed discussions of a bill that bans Iraqis with dual nationality from occupying senior government positions.
Dual nationality was banned in Iraq until the 2003 American-led invasion, when the US Occupation Authority issued a decree allowing it. Three years later, an Iraqi law replaced it, affirming the principle of multiplicity of nationalities while preventing Iraqis holding dual citizenship from attaining positions of “sovereign or high security”.
The Iraqi Nationality Act was published in the Iraqi Gazette No. 4019, issued in March 2006. Article 9, IV of the act says: “An Iraqi who holds another acquired nationality shall not assume a top-level sovereign or security position, unless he/ she has renounced that nationality.”
However, scores of top and senior officials, including high-ranking security officers, diplomats and lawmakers, hold dual nationality. They do not want that law to be ratified by parliament.
“It was clear that the parliament could not adopt such law as long as there are lawmakers with dual nationality and without the agreement of the political leaders”, said Mohsen Aziz, a lawyer, who gives legal consultations. “Such a law will either force them to quit their positions or strip them from the other non-Iraqi nationality and certainly they do not want this.”
Shatha Jumaa, an activist who wants the law banning dual nationality passed by parliament, agreed. “There are corrupt people among the holders of dual nationality but the other citizenship protects them,” said Jumaa. “A senior official accused of corruption managed to leave Iraq using his second passport.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi, reacting to anti-corruption protests, submitted a reform plan to parliament.
“The parliament on that day gave the senior officials a period of 30 days to choose between quitting their positions or the other nationality,” said political analyst Abdul Qadir Qaisy. “Yet, the period finished and nothing happened.”
Kamil al-Zaidy, a member of parliament’s Legal Committee, said: “The parliament does not intend to approve such law in the time being because the political blocs do not want it. This is why the bill had passed its first legislative reading and it was not included on any other session’s agenda.”
Hussein Abdul Hassan, a judge, said, while the Iraqi constitution allows dual nationality, “in Article 18, Item 4, it prevents the holders of the dual nationality from top sovereign positions unless they abandon the non-Iraqi nationality by a law that should be adopted.”
Numan Omer, who was a regular participant in the weekly anti-corruption protests, said he hoped that “public pressure prevents any attempt to circumvent the law.”
“Since the independence of Iraq in 1921, successive governments banned dual nationality,” Omer said, “but the Administrative Transitional Law that was written under the American occupation allowed the dual nationality. “That law allowed its holders to occupy top positions as a reward to many Iraqi opposition leaders who were in the exile and cooperated with the Americans before the invasion and after it.”
When Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was summoned by parliament in October, he revealed that nearly half of Iraq’s ambassadors — 32 of the 66 — have dual citizenship. He said the ambassadors were “appointed and authenticated by the parliament” from 2004-09.
Local media outlets published names of some of the holders of the dual nationalities in the top sovereign positions. The reports state that many Iraqi ambassadors serve in the countries in which they hold nationality. Jaafari himself has dual nationality (Iraqi and British).
Iraqis activists often mock officials who hold dual nationality. “If the British prime minister is going to receive the Iraqi prime minister, how would it go between them as Abadi holds British nationality?” one activist asked.
Activist Fadhil Abbas said: “We are being ruled by the foreigners. It is known that holding another nationality means the holders is under oath to be loyal to that nationality. How would he behave if there were a problem between Iraq and the second nationality country?”