March 4, 2008

With all the attention on the primary races, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Maliki government in Iraq won’t even pretend to take the rule of law seriously.

Two former high-ranking Shiite government officials charged with kidnapping and killing scores of Sunnis were ordered released Monday after prosecutors dropped the case. The abrupt move renewed concerns about the willingness of Iraq’s leaders to act against sectarianism and cast doubts on U.S. efforts to build an independent judiciary.

The collapse of the trial stunned American and Iraqi officials who had spent more than a year assembling the case, which they said included a wide array of evidence.

“This shows that the judicial system in Iraq is horribly broken,” said a U.S. legal adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. “And it sends a terrible signal: If you are Shia, then no worries; you can do whatever you want and nothing is going to happen to you.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to allow the case to proceed to trial was considered a significant step toward proving his Shiite-led government could hold Shiite officials accountable for sectarian crimes.

Maybe John McCain could tell us again about how confident we should all feel about progress in Iraq.

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