Iraq’s new interim constitution sounds many of the same themes as the U.S. Constitution in guaranteeing freedom of the people – with one stark difference: There is no right to keep and bear arms in the new charter.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell hailed Monday’s signing of the document, which lays out the time line for Iraqi self-government, he encouraged his audience to read the new constitution.
“Read this administrative law, and read what the Governing Council has written for the people of Iraq,” he said in a speech commemorating International Women’s Day Monday. “Read what it says about the rights of all Iraqis, the rights of women. Read what it says about a free judiciary. Read what it says about the military firmly being under control of the civilian authority.”
Powell next talked positively about arms control in a new Iraq, followed by mention of “rights” and “liberty.”
“Read what it says about arms not being allowed within the society except under the control of civilian authorities,” he said. “Read what it says about democracy, rights, liberty, and what the new Iraq will look like. …”
Article 12 of the new constitution, which prohibits discrimination, echoes some phrases of the U.S. Constitution:
All Iraqis are equal in their rights without regard to gender, sect, opinion, belief, nationality, religion, or origin, and they are equal before the law. Discrimination against an Iraqi citizen on the basis of his gender, nationality, religion, or origin is prohibited. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his life or liberty, except in accordance with legal procedures. All are equal before the courts.
Article 13 then lists the individual rights of each Iraqi:
(A) Public and private freedoms shall be protected.
(B) The right of free expression shall be protected.
(C) The right of free peaceable assembly and the right to join associations freely, as well as the right to form and join unions and political parties freely, in accordance with the law, shall be guaranteed.
(D) Each Iraqi has the right of free movement in all parts of Iraq and the right to travel abroad and return freely.
(E) Each Iraqi has the right to demonstrate and strike peaceably in accordance with the law.
(F) Each Iraqi has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice. Coercion in such matters shall be prohibited.
(G) Slavery, the slave trade, forced labor, and involuntary servitude with or without pay, shall be forbidden.
(H) Each Iraqi has the right to privacy.
There is also a provision akin to the U.S. Fourth Amendment, which prohibits searches without a warrant, along with a right to a “fair, speedy and open trial.”
Property rights also are guaranteed in the constitution: “Each Iraqi citizen shall have the full and unfettered right to own real property in all parts of Iraq without restriction.”
The only reference to individual ownership of arms is in Article 17:
“It shall not be permitted to possess, bear, buy, or sell arms except on licensure issued in accordance with the law.”
Based on that provision, individual gun ownership can easily be restricted by use of statutory law.
Article 27 addresses the formation of militias: “Armed forces and militias not under the command structure of the Iraqi Transitional Government are prohibited, except as provided by federal law. ”
A leading gun-rights organization strongly disagreed with leaving out a right to bear arms.
“It’s a very big mistake,” said Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America. “What an interesting contrast to what our Founding Fathers thought.”
Pratt emphasized America’s founders believed it crucial for citizens to have the right to own arms to prevent what Iraq has endured for decades: tyranny.
“The right of people to keep and bear arms was the best check to tyranny” the Founding Fathers put into place, Pratt told WND.
Angel Shamaya, founder and executive director of Keep and Bear Arms decried what he sees as a lack of religious freedom along with the absence of gun rights.
“They’ve set up a situation where religious persecution can continue,” he said, referring to the fact Islam has been established as the official state religion.
Shamaya says the banning of militias will hinder minority religions.
“Militias have enabled minority religions to defend themselves from the majority religion,” he noted.
Shamaya also criticized the “search and seizure” provision of the new plan: “They don’t have a Second Amendment, and they don’t have an adequate Fourth Amendment.
“It’s a tin-pot dictatorship waiting to happen,” he said. “If the U.S. Constitution is the best there is, why doesn’t the Iraqi constitution more accurately emulate ours?”
Nancy Beck, a spokeswoman with the U.S. State Department emphasized the new blueprint is temporary and for transitional purposes only.
“One of the things we have to keep in mind is it’s a transitional administrative law,” she told WND. “It will allow the new interim government to have a structure.”
Said Beck, “They’re still working on a permanent constitution.”
The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority under the leadership of Paul Bremer has had significant input into the drafting of the new law. The preamble mentions the United Nations, saying the Iraqis are “working to reclaim their legitimate place among nations.”