News: US, Iraqi judge advocates partner for legal education
Story by Sgt. A.M. LaVey
BAGHDAD - Legal professionals from the office of the staff judge advocate, United States Forces–Iraq, met with 30 Iraqi military lawyers at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense here April 18 to provide their Iraqi counterparts with legal education in the form of a court martial demonstration.
This type of simulation, known as a mock trial, is a tool used in American legal education to place an emphasis on court systems and procedures, rather than on a particular crime or evidence. This specific demonstration was designed to explain the American court martial procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Mock trials help to take each of the different parts and sections of a specific court martial system and let you pause…which you can’t do in a real court martial and ask questions,” said Maj. Joshua M. Toman, chief of military justice, USF-I. This type of learning “is much better than doing presentations or talking about it – you really have to see it to understand it.”
Courts martial are military court proceedings used to try service members for offenses to military law. Such offenses are seen as challenges to the security of the Iraqi forces.
“In order to have greater security you have to have a disciplined force and to have a unified force, there must be uniformed discipline amongst the [different groups] that make up the Iraqi forces,” said Toman. “The commander cannot be seen to be prejudicial [against one group or another when] he punishes and cannot be seen to be too easy on people either; this is where showing them how our system works helps them to…make their system better.”
The ultimate goal in these lessons of comparative military justice systems is to partner with the Iraqi forces and to assist them to develop a strong court martial system to enforce discipline, making their military stronger.
“You can teach them how to shoot, move and communicate, but that military is still not effective if [it’s service members] are not disciplined or respect their leaders enough to discipline or treat them correctly,” said Toman.
The current Iraqi military justice program is similar to the early American system, when military attorneys were on the commander’s staff only to provide him tools for discipline. Iraqi military attorneys are currently providing this service. But American military attorneys now have a larger responsibility with in the military services and are active in more types of legal decisions then that of criminal law.
Judge advocates “are in a broad spectrum of responsibilities: fiscal law, legal assistance, contracts, and operational law because of our proven ability and skills to take an issue, analyze it, and to provide the command solutions and options,” said Toman. “That is what I see in the future for the Iraqis – moving beyond just being a prosecutor to being a trusted advisor.”
Iraqi military lawyers have participated in legal training, both here and abroad, with allies such as Egypt, Jordan and the United States.
“There has been cooperation with our allies as they assisted with the initial [professional development programs] until we took the training over ourselves,” said Iraqi army Col Hussein Ali, a training officer with the Office of General Counsel, Iraqi MoD. “We are grateful for the role that our allies have played.
We get so many benefits from their assistance, especially when we train abroad.”
American officers also get educated in comparative military law from the Iraqi partners.
“We engage them in educational exchanges, bringing them to the USA,” said Toman. “We [also] attend their training and observe their demonstrations and real trials in their courts, so that we can better understand their system [to] highlight potential differences and similarities” between the two systems, said Toman.
Both American and Iraqi judge advocates report advantages to this type of partnership training.
“This type of training –these exchanges- like the mock trials, will help us continue preparing our officers very nicely,” said Hussein.
“I hope that the desire to understand more was stoked in the Iraq judge advocates and judges [who] watched today,” said Toman. “We want them to continue to engage with us as they continue to refine their own procedures.”