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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 25, 2004

UI Law Professor Thinks Iraq Constitution To Likely Have Little Impact

Regardless of when a new Iraqi constitution is drafted, it will likely have little effect on the lives of most Iraqis and rendered mostly irrelevant by real world events, according to Adrien Wing, a University of Iowa law professor and expert in constitutional drafting.

"The constitution is important from a symbolic perspective in that the various competing sides were able to work together to come up with a document like this," said Wing. "But from a practical standpoint, there's still a war going on, and there's probably not much prospect of a government strong enough to enforce the constitution's provisions."

She said ongoing civil strife between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds will likely fatally weaken whatever government takes over in Iraq, particularly after American forces leave, which would fatally weaken the constitution. In addition, Wing said much of the constitution is composed of contradictory elements. For instance, in one provision, the constitution guarantees the rights of women. But in another, the constitution is said to be derived from Islamic law, which considers women to be second-class citizens.

"Even when a constitution is finally accepted there are lots of issues that need to be resolved, and that's up to the Iraqis," said Wing.

An internationally renowned constitutional scholar, Wing has helped draft numerous constitutions, including those in South Africa, Rwanda and for the Palestinian Council. She is also a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Association of Constitutional Law, an organization that promotes the teaching and study of constitutional law.

Two years ago, Wing taught a class titled "Law in the Muslim World," and the class project for the semester was a mock constitutional convention for Iraq. Many of the issues and questions that arose during the class project were similar to what the real Iraqi drafters encountered in recent months, such as: what role should religion play in government? Do people have a constitutionally protected right to things like health care and a job? And how should political authority be distributed between the central government and regional governments?

Wing is teaching the class again this fall semester and may use the Iraq constitution as a teaching tool.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.