The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court in April will hear multiple challenges to the parliament’s controversial decision to ban alcoholic beverages, which one plaintiff told Rudaw was “a contradiction of fundamental human rights.”
The law, published in the justice ministry’s official gazette in late February, prohibits the import, sale, and manufacture of all alcoholic beverages. The ban sparked concern among minority groups, as the majority of shops selling alcohol are owned by Christians and Yazidis.
Twelve separate hearings challenging the law are on the court’s docket for April 12. The cases have been filed by businessmen, governmental officials, and politicians, including Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid.
The deputy leader of a Christian party, the Beth Nahrin Patriotic Union, said the law is unconstitutional. “We believe this law, and especially Article 14 of the law, is completely against the Iraqi constitution and legal and constitutional principles. And it contradicts fundamental human rights and personal liberties,” Joseph Sylawa told Rudaw on Thursday.
“This Article will have serious repercussions for Iraq and the community if it were to be implemented,” he added.
The Assyrian politician was optimistic that the court will rule in their favor because Iraq is a multi-ethnic country and such a prohibition would be a constriction of freedoms.
Under the law, violators will face fines of between 10 and 25 million Iraqi dinars ($7,600 to $19,000 using the exchange rate set by the Iraqi central bank, or $6,500 to $16,500 using market rates). The Iraqi government in February adjusted the official exchange rate as part of a bid to bring the dinar value under control, but the government decision has not affected rates in the currency markets due to the scarcity of US dollars.
Iraq is home to many ethnicities and religions, many of whom have repeatedly condemned a ban on booze as unconstitutional and out of touch with democratic values. The country has a long history of consuming and making alcohol. In February, archeologists uncovered the remains of a 5,000-year-old pub in the ruins of ancient Lagash, northeast of the city of Nasiriyah. Evidence of beer drinking was found in the ruins.