In Iraq on Tuesday, the Shiite-dominated government announced two measures apparently aimed at placating the country's Sunni minority. The Interior Ministry announced that criminal charges have been filed against nearly 60 of its employees for torturing and abusing prisoners --most of them Sunnis -- in a Baghdad prison. The government also announced that members of the once-dominant Baath Party will soon be able to get their jobs back.
One of the first things American ambassador Paul Bremer did when he arrived in Baghdad right after the 2003 U.S. invasion was to dismiss tens of thousands of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from their government jobs.
Many of them, including teachers and health ministry officials, had only joined the party to gain employment.
The de-Baathification policy helped spur many Iraqi Sunnis into supporting or actively participating in the insurgency here. Late Monday night, the government announced that a draft law amending the policy will soon be presented to parliament.
Another development that could help ease tensions with Sunnis was the announcement by the Interior Ministry that 57 employees have been charged with human-rights abuses.
The charges relate to events at a prison in eastern Baghdad known as Site 4. In May. the United Nations released a report stating that more than 1,400 detainees were held in Site 4, and that many of them suffered systematic psychological and physical abuse.
It's the first time the Iraqi government has acted against its own security forces, especially the Interior Ministry, which U.S. officials and Sunni political leaders say is dominated by Shiite militias. Sunnis say Shiite death squads dressed in police uniforms round up Sunni Arabs, and torture and kill many of them.
Today's announcement of criminal charges against members of the security force is seen largely as the work of the new Interior Minister, Jawad Bolani, who took over in June. So far, he has fired more than 3,000 ministry employees, and suspended an entire police brigade on suspicion that its members were linked to Shiite death squads.