UPDATE: Iraq: Protect Iraqi Women's Rights in Family Laws

WLUML has received the following clarification/additional information from a British Member of Parliament.
Thank you for your email to Ann Clwyd MP regarding the meeting of 20th January 2004 and the Iraqi Governing Council resolution 137.

We have spoken to a number of people in Baghdad about this and will hope to follow up on the issues arising from this the next time we are in Baghdad.

A minority of the Iraqi Governing Council, eleven of its twenty-five members, met on 29th December 2003 and passed the decree on Family Law. Decisions made by the Iraqi Governing Council can only be passed into law once ascent has been granted by Ambassador Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Ambassador Bremer refused to pass the decree as it contradicted the Agreement on the Political Process document established by the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority on 15th November 2003. This document is, in part, an agreement on the drafting of a "Fundamental Law" that "will formally set forth the scope and structure of the sovereign Iraqi transitional administration." The first element of the "Fundamental Law" is a bill of rights.

"Bill of rights, to include freedom of speech, legislature, religion; statement of equal rights of all Iraqis, regardless of gender, sect, and ethnicity; and guarantees of due process."

This fundamental law will remain in place until a new constitution is agreed and approved by referendum. The process for writing a new constitution is planned to be complete by the end of 2005.

Ann Clwyd, raised concerns about these developments during Questions to the Minister for Women and Equality, Ms Patricia Hewitt, on 22nd January 2004. I include the exchange in full below.

"Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, Iraqi women have long enjoyed some of the most modern legal protections in the Muslim world. Can she assure people in this country and in Iraq that the recent decision by the governing council to introduce Sharia law was a minority decision, and there is no intention by Ambassador Bremer or anybody else to sign it into law?

Ms Hewitt: My hon. Friend has played an outstanding role in supporting the Iraqi people in their struggle against tyranny, and the House and I pay tribute to her. I agree with her about the consternation that the decision has aroused in Iraq and more broadly. We share her anxiety and are working to ensure that Sharia law does not become the basis for the new constitution of Iraq."

I hope this answers your questions.

Kind regards,

Robert Smith
Office of Ann Clwyd MP