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Iraq Study Group recommends greater DOJ role in bolstering Iraqi legal system

[JURIST] The Iraq Study Group (ISG) [official website; fact sheet] recommended Wednesday that the Bush administration provide "strong" support and funding for US Justice Department efforts in Iraq "to establish courts; to train judges, prosecutors, and investigators; and to create institutions and practices to fight corruption." In its report [PDF text], the ISG noted that "new and refurbished courthouses with improved physical security, secure housing for judges and judicial staff, witness protection facilities, and a new Iraqi Marshals Service are essential parts of a secure and functioning system of justice." The ISG, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, studied the situation in Iraq, recommending courses of action for the US government with respect to police and criminal justice, security and military forces, national reconciliation, and other areas.

The panel, which included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, wrote that the Justice Department is better suited than the Defense Department to assist in reforming Iraq's Interior Ministry and that "Iraq needs more than training for cops on the beat: it needs courts, trained prosecutors and investigators, and the ability to protect Iraqi judicial officials." According to the report:

The Iraqi criminal justice system is weak, and the U.S. training mission has been hindered by a lack of clarity and capacity. It has not always been clear who is in charge of the police training mission, and the U.S. military lacks expertise in certain areas pertaining to police and the rule of law. The United States has been more successful in training the Iraqi Army than it has the police. The U.S. Department of Justice has the expertise and capacity to carry out the police training mission. The U.S. Department of Defense is already bearing too much of the burden in Iraq. Meanwhile, the pool of expertise in the United States on policing and the rule of law has been underutilized.

The United States should adjust its training mission in Iraq to match the recommended changes in the Iraqi government - the movement of the National and Border Police to the Ministry of Defense and the new emphasis on the Iraqi Police Service within the Ministry of the Interior. To reflect the reorganization, the Department of Defense would continue to train the Iraqi National and Border Police, and the Department of Justice would become responsible for training the Iraqi Police Service.
The panel also recommended that "The Iraqi Police Service should be given greater responsibility to conduct criminal investigations and should expand its cooperation with other elements in the Iraqi judicial system in order to better control crime and protect Iraqi civilians."

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