News: Military, provincial leaders in Babil assess judicial issues
Story by Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – As coalition forces withdraw from security responsibilities in provinces throughout Iraq, the country's judicial system is also stepping up to handle the courts, criminal cases and detainees.
Military leaders in Babil met with embassy and provincial advisors on Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Oct. 3, 2008, to discuss ways of meeting the interests of the Iraqi judicial system as the province will soon return to Iraqi control.
"It's important that we understand what the coalition forces here on the ground are experiencing with regards to the justice system, how they interact with the Iraqi security forces, how the ISF interact with the local judiciary, so we can identify problems, work out a system or protocol moving forward and then take it to the Babil-based judiciary in Hillah," said Mark A. Robbins, Rule of Law advisor working out of the Regional Embassy Office in al-Hillah.
The meeting was meant to get the discussion started as a way of looking ahead for solutions. The top three essential strategic goals are to foster a strong individual judiciary system, help the justice system strengthen the link between security forces and judge, and to urge judges to continue the reconciliation process of releasing detainees.
In working together, part of the challenge has been the difference between the U.S. judicial system and the Iraqi system. The U.S. employs an adversarial system that relies on the skill of each lawyer representing his or her own party's positions and involves a jury to determine the truth of the case. Iraq, on the other hand, employs an accusatory system in which judges have the authority to investigate and decide a case.
"The Iraqi judiciary is a proud institution and a historic institution," Robbins said of the system, which has been employed for 120 years. "It's a process that as we move forward, we're going to have to honor."
The road ahead weaves through the effort to help Iraq improve in several categories, to include: the criminal procedural system, issuing of warrants, making arrests and improving the efficiency of handling cases.
The biggest push to help Iraq advance is the upcoming Status of Forces Agreement, which governs how American forces can operate in a sovereign country. Tied with that, the United Nations Security Council Resolution expires at the end of December, which is the term that allows C
coalition forces to operate in Iraq.
The details of the SOFA are still being worked out but likely they will require U.S. troops to withdraw posture and act aggressively only in self defense. It will also commit coalition operations to cooperate with Iraqi forces. Detention operations will be taken out of CF's hands and would require all arrests to be warranted by an Iraqi judge.
"Instead of [coalition] picking people up because we have [intelligence] that they're bad guys, we're trying to create target packages and that kind of stuff to help the Iraqis collect evidence so that they can determine who the bad guy [is] and pick him up, based on the warrant," said Navy Lt. Alison Shuler, of Mission Viego, Calif., a liaison attorney for Central Command Court of Iraq.
Detainees' legal custody would also be handled directly by Iraqi control. That's why there has been a recent push to establish which of the 18,000 current detainees can be convicted on criminal charges, so they may be tried in Iraqi courts and held in Iraqi prisons. Of those still detained, 4,500 are considered a high threat.
"So what we need to do is find a way to work with the Iraqi judiciary so that our needs, the coalition forces needs, are met," Robbins said.
One of such coalition needs is being able to question those detainees under Iraqi custody involved in direct attacks on coalition forces.
Looking ahead, provincial and military leaders will continue to meet and talk to find the solutions that can meet those needs while still urging Iraq in its progress to independence.
"That's the discussion we're beginning today," Robbins said. "Right now, we're at the very beginning in trying to determine what the answer is."