Iraq: Government seriously threatens the independence of judges and lawyers
In a recent public statement on the 5th of October 2012, the occasion of the 79th anniversary of the Iraqi Bar Association, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki implicitly threatened lawyers, expressing "his commendation and admiration of lawyers who refuse to defend terrorists, murderers and criminals", whilst criticising those who "are willing to defend a murderer or a criminal", as he believes was the case with the lawyers working on the case of former President Saddam Hussein.
This ominous statement, made by the most important political figure in the country, has particularly worried lawyers, who have interpreted it as a threat to their safety, including their physical safety. It has also had a direct impact on the independence of magistrates to make decisions, in particular on cases involving accusations of terrorism.
The permanent atmosphere of danger that judges and lawyers have to work in, combined with the complete impunity that members of the Iraqi security service and armed militia close to the authorities enjoy, clearly limits the capacity of the justice system to function properly.