Iraq: Government seriously threatens the independence of judges and lawyers

The Iraqi government must stop meddling in the administration of justice and threatening judges and lawyers. Alkarama denounces the threats made by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, and, in a letter sent on the 6th of November 2012, called upon the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to expose the current state of the Iraqi legal system.
Since the American military occupation, the highest authorities in the country have continued, if not increased, their threats to the principle of an independent justice system.

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.

Alkarama is even more concerned about the situation given the large number of death sentences being issued following unfair trails during which the toxic legal climate gives magistrates very little room for independence. Alarmingly, convictions are generally followed by mass executions of prisoners, which continue to take place despite numerous denunciations by international NGOs and criticism from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

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