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Political power in Iraq is concentrated in a repressive one-party apparatus dominated by Saddam Hussein. The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulates that the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ABSP) governs Iraq through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercises both executive and legislative authority. The Revolution Command Council has the power to override the Provisional Constitution at any time and without judicial review. Parallel to the normal institutions of government the Baath Party enjoys special status pursuant to the Leading Party Act No. 142 of 1974. The Republic of Iraq is structured so as to concentrate enormous powers in extremely few hands, with all power ultimately situated in the person of the President of the Republic. President Saddam Hussein, who is also Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional Command of the Baath Party , wields decisive power.

Iraq is a dictatorial, totalitarian State which allows no political dissent. Freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly do not exist in Iraq. Of vital importance to the maintenance of the present political regime in Iraq is the complex, vast and infamous security apparatus which the President controls directly, and through his youngest son Qusai Hussein. The position of power enjoyed by the President is subject to the most extreme abuse which continues to bear especially heavily upon any threat of opposition - real or perceived.

The Government's security apparatus includes militias attached to the President, the Ba'ath Party, and the Interior Ministry. They play a central role in maintaining the environment of intimidation and fear on which government power rests. Security forces have committed widespread, serious, and systematic human rights abuses.

The personal protection of Saddam Hussein is ensured by three mutually controlling units, called "protection units." The largest of these units is the Republican Guard led by Saddam Hussein’s son Qusai Hussein. The general office of the military intelligence service [the Istikhbarat] is directly responsible to the Office of the President of Iraq. The internal intelligence service is called the Mukhabarat. Both Saddam's younger son Qusai and elder son Uday are active in the management of these entitities.

The elevated and protected status both of the security apparatus and of the Baath Party extends the scope and effects of abuse of power throughout the country. A substantial increase in official corruption (essentially government tolerated, if not encouraged, by the Government) and criminality has only exacerbated the situation, rendering the whole population subject to the arbitrary, widespread and self-centred interests of a privileged class of government officials and Baath Party leaders. Impunity even for serious assaults and extrajudicial killings encourages the abuse of power.

The regime has a long record of executing perceived opponents allegedly involved in plotting against President Hussein, including high-ranking civilian, military, and tribal leaders, as well as members of his family and clan.

The security apparatus is responsible for maintaining an all-pervasive order of repression and oppression which is sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror, including summary and arbitrary executions; the widespread routine practice of systematic torture; enforced or involuntary disappearances; suppression of freedom of thought, expression and association; and routinely practised arbitrary arrests and detention. Arbitrary arrest and detention remain widespread throughout the country, with people still being taken directly from their homes. Upon arrest, gross mistreatment and cruel torture occur. Tens of thousands of political killings and disappearances remain unresolved from previous years. As socioeconomic conditions have deteriorated, the regime has punished persons accused of economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other charges with torture and cruel and inhuman penalties, including the extensive use of amputation.

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Monday, December 15, 1997 9:47:36 PM