BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi National Assembly’s rush to finish a constitution by mid-August ran into more trouble Wednesday when the drafting committee’s Sunni Muslims halted their work after the assassination of two colleagues.
The suspension of Sunni participation came on top of continuing deep divisions among committee members over such key issues as the independence of the governorates, control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and the status of women.
The panel faces an Aug. 1 deadline for submitting a draft to the National Assembly. The legislature is to complete any modifications by Aug. 15 and then hold a nationwide referendum on the document.
Humam Hammoudi, chairman of the Constitutional Committee and a member of the predominantly Shiite bloc the United Iraqi Alliance, minimized the significance of the Sunni suspension and promised that the committee would meet the Aug. 1 deadline. “The aim behind the assassination … is to prevent the Sunni Arabs from participating in the political process, and to keep Iraq in a state of instability by trying to make the Iraqi constitution a failure,” he said.
Mijbil Issa, a Sunni Arab law professor, was gunned down in his car Tuesday. Also killed were a legal adviser to Sunnis on the constitution-writing committee and a friend of Issa’s.
In wake of the killing, other Sunnis on the panel said they had serious security concerns and complained about the lack of guards and accommodations for them in the capital’s heavily guarded Green Zone. Many government offices are located in that area.
“I just came back from the funeral of the two martyrs, and without security I am easily a target for attacks,” said Suha Azzawi, a Sunni member of constitution committee.