Hamoudi to Discuss Creation of the Iraqi Constitution

Issue Date: 
January 20, 2014

University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Haider Ala Hamoudi will deliver a lecture about how Iraq’s deeply divided sectarian and ethnic factions bridged their ideological differences to create a constitution. Hamoudi’s talk, which will be held at 5 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Barco Law Building, will focus on his recently published book, Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

The book addresses the drafting of Iraq’s constitution in 2005, as well as that nation’s first democratic election in more than 50 years. Hamoudi assesses how the Iraqis were able to surmount the deep ideological differences separating the nation’s Sunnis, Shi’ah, and Kurds—differences that have produced a long history of political conflict and violence.

Prior to Hamoudi’s presentation, Pitt Assistant Professor of Law Jessie Allen will speak briefly about Hamoudi’s book. 

“Even under ideal conditions, drafting a constitution can be a prolonged process marked by contentious debate. Conditions in Iraq, then and now, are far from ideal,” said Hamoudi.

Moreover, the differences between the nation’s disparate groups “were not minor disagreements,” Hamoudi said. “These were passionately held positions of different ethnic and sectarian groups which they had developed over a period of decades. There was no reasonable way to resolve them in any sort of constitutional convention.

“Instead, disputes of this sort had to be avoided, through the use of maddeningly ambiguous or even contradictory text, or the promise to resolve it through future laws.”

While critics have derided the Iraqi Constitution’s terms for being ambiguous, Hamoudi argues that forcing compromises would have imposed one sectarian group’s views on the others, likely leading to further division and violence.

“It’s an incomplete constitution, but perhaps the best that can be done in these circumstances,” Hamoudi said. “It has to be followed by continual engagement and dialogue among disparate parties, so that incremental solutions to festering disputes can be solved over time.”

In writing his book, Hamoudi consulted the original negotiating documents of the Iraqi Constitution Drafting Committee. He also drew upon his own considerable experience with Iraq’s constitutional process: in 2009, Hamoudi advised the Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature in developing critical proposed amendments to the nation’s constitution. Hamoudi also has worked as a legal advisor to the Finance Committee of the Iraq Governing Council, and has advised on other key pieces of legislation, including hydrocarbons, revenue management, and antitrust laws.

Hamoudi earned a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School, and prior to his arrival at Pitt in 2007, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Constance Baker Motley in New York and as an associate at the New York-based international law firm of Debevoise and Plimpton. He has written for numerous law reviews and is the author of Howling in Mesopotamia: An Iraqi-American Memoir (Beaufort Books, 2008).

Registrations for the Jan. 23 lecture may be made online at www.law.pitt.edu/events/2014/01/negotiating-in-civil-conflict/rsvp