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Last updated: January 2021

This profile includes persons that were and/or are members of the banned Baath party, including those that have collaborated with ISIL or other armed groups.

COI summary

[Targeting 2019, 1.7; Security 2019, 1.1.1, 1.3.4]

The Arab Socialist Baath party, which ruled Iraq from 1968 to 2003, since 1979 under Saddam Hussein, has been described as a brutal authoritarian regime. During the 1980s, approximately 10 % of the Iraqi population were members of the Baath party. Saddam Hussein and the Baath party used violence, killing, torture, execution, and various forms of repression to control the population.

Shortly after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, a series of legal and administrative measures were introduced with the objective of preventing the Baath party from returning to power. The de-Baathification process consisted of a broad policy aiming to eliminate senior Baath party members from the civil service and disbanding the Iraqi armed forces and security services. In May 2003, 400 000 military conscripts, officers and government officials were made unemployed by the de-Baathification order. The de-Baathification proved to polarise Iraqi politics; whilst Shia political parties supported the process, Sunnis eventually considered it as a sectarian instrument wielded to prevent Sunnis from participating in public life. It is reported that the government continues the selective use of the de-Baathification provisions of the law to render many Sunnis ineligible for government employment, without affecting former Shia Baathists in the same way.

It should be taken into account that the new constitution implemented in 2005 effectively banned the Baath party. In addition to that, a Bill passed by the Iraqi Parliament in July 2016 formally banned the Arab Socialist Baath Party from exercising any political or cultural or intellectual or social activity under any name and by any means of communication or media.

In 2018, it was revealed that 14 former officials from the Saddam-era were still in prison in Iraq. The Iraqi government also ordered the seizure of assets which previously belonged more than 4 200 former Baathist officials, including their spouses and relatives.

Despite the constitutional ban, some remnants of the former Baath party remained active, including during the ISIL conflict.

Even though not all former Baathists were enthusiastic about ISIL, the remnants of the party generally shared relations with the Islamic State. There has been a close cooperation between the remnants of the former Baath Party and ISIL not least because of the shared hatred of the Shia-led government in Iraq. Saddam-era Baathist military and police officers were recruited by ISIL. It was also reported that former Saddam-regime officers ran three of the most crucial of ISIL’s 23 portfolios: security, military and finance. The list of the most wanted ISIL members published by Iraqi authorities in February 2018 contained several high-ranking former Baath party members.

On the one hand, ISIL recruited former Saddam-era Baathist military and police officers who have been a powerful factor in the rise of ISIL and were instrumental in the survival of its self-proclaimed caliphate. On the other hand, former Baathists had their own political goals in mind and were aiming for the establishment of a Sunni-dominated tribal nation from Damascus to Fallujah to Mosul, thus covertly undermining ISIL’s caliphate.

The former Baathists were not able to compete with ISIL. In fact, many former Baathists were arrested and killed by ISIL due to rivalry. To tame any opposition, ISIL arrested a number of local Baath party leaders and members in 2014, suggesting fractures in the local Baathist-ISIL alliance.

Former Baathists and their properties, particularly those belonging to former officers of the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein, were also targeted in the military operations against ISIL by the pro-government forces, including militia groups.

Risk analysis

Some actions to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. killing, arrest by ISIL). In other cases, individuals could be exposed to (solely) discriminatory measures, and the individual assessment of whether discrimination could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.

In general, the risk of persecution for a regular Baath party member is minimal and dependent on the specific individual circumstances. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: supporting in public the ideology of the Baath party, having had a high-ranking position in the party, being a former Saddam-era military or police officer, having served in the intelligence services during the Saddam regime, potential (perceived) affiliation with ISIL, etc.

See also the profiles above concerning 2.1 Persons (perceived to be) affiliated with ISIL and 2.2 Sunni Arabs.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.

Exclusion considerations could be relevant to this profile (see the chapter 6. Exclusion).