Iraq Crisis | Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | [Reconstruction] | [War Crimes Trials] | Law Schools
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Iraq Crisis ———————————————————————
Constitution, Government & Legislation

The provisional Constitution of 1968 stipulated that the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party governs Iraq through the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which exercises both executive and legislative authority. A new Interim Constitution was adopted in 1990. The RCC's president (chief of state and supreme commander or the armed forces) is elected by a two-thirds majority of the RCC. A Council of Ministers (cabinet), appointed by the RCC, has administrative and some legislative responsibilities. A 250-member National Assembly consisting of 220 elected by popular vote who serve a 4- year term, and 30 appointed by the president to represent the three northern provinces, was last elected in March 2000.

President Saddam Hussein, who is also Prime Minister, Chairman of the RCC, and Secretary General of the Regional Command of the Ba'th Party, wields decisive power.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The Iraqi judiciary is not independent, and there is no check on the President's power to override any court decision. In 1999 the UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq and international human rights groups observed that the repressive nature of the political and legal systems precludes the rule of law.

There are two parallel judicial systems: The regular courts, which try common criminal offenses, and the special security courts, which generally try national security cases but also may try criminal cases. In addition to the Court of Appeal, there is the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court.

Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling, currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. Military officers or civil servants with no legal training head these tribunals, which hear cases in secret. There are no Shari'a (Islamic law) courts; however, regular courts are empowered to administer Islamic law in cases involving personal status, such as divorce and inheritance.

Procedures in the regular courts theoretically provide for many protections. However, the regime often assigns to the security courts cases that, on their legal merits, would appear to fall under the jurisdiction of the regular courts. Trials in the regular courts are public, and defendants are entitled to counsel, at government expense in the case of indigents. Defense lawyers have the right to review the charges and evidence brought against their clients. There is no jury system; panels of three judges try cases. Defendants have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Court of Cassation.

Both the Kurdish PUK- and the KDP-controlled local administrations maintain separate judicial systems. They use the Iraqi legal code. Both come under a separate Supreme Court of Cassation. During the year, PUK and KDP officials reported that all PUK and KDP political prisoners and detainees had been exchanged in accordance with a 1999 agreement. However, the PUK and the KDP reportedly continued to hold some political prisoners and detainees

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Iraqi Government's human rights record remained extremely poor in 2001. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The Government continued to execute summarily alleged political opponents and leaders in the Shi'a religious community. Reports suggest that persons were executed merely because of their association with an opposition group or as part of a continuing effort to reduce prison populations. The Government continued to be responsible for disappearances and to kill and torture persons suspected of--or related to persons suspected of--economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other activities. Security forces routinely tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused detainees. Prison conditions are extremely poor and at times life threatening. The Government reportedly has conducted "prison cleansing" campaigns to kill inmates in order to relieve overcrowding in the prisons. The authorities routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged detention, and incommunicado detention, and continued to deny citizens the basic right to due process. Saddam Hussein and his inner circle of supporters continued to impose arbitrary rule. The Government continued to infringe on citizens' privacy rights.

The Government restricts severely freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country issued a report in January detailing ongoing, grievous violations of human rights by the Government. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. General Assembly passed resolutions in April and November criticizing the Government's suppression of these freedoms. Human rights abuses remain difficult to document because of the Government's efforts to conceal the facts, including its prohibition on the establishment of independent human rights organizations, its persistent refusal to grant visits to human rights monitors, and its continued restrictions designed to prevent dissent. Denied entry to the country, the Special Rapporteur bases his reports on the Government's human rights abuses on interviews with recent emigrants, interviews with opposition groups and others that have contacts inside the country, and on published reports from outside the country. Violence and discrimination against women occur. The Government has enacted laws affording a variety of protections to women; however, it is difficult to determine the practical effects of such protections. The Government neglects the health and nutritional needs of children, and discriminates against religious minorities and ethnic groups. The Government restricts severely trade union rights. Child labor persists, and there were instances of forced labor.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have controlled most areas in the three northern provinces of Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaymaniah since the Government withdrew its military forces and civilian administrative personnel from the area after the 1991 Kurdish uprising. The KDP and the PUK fought one another from 1994 through 1997. In September 1998, they agreed to unify their separate administrations and to hold new elections in July 1999. The cease-fire has held; however, reunification measures have not been implemented. The PUK held municipal elections in February 2000 and the KDP held municipal elections in May, the first elections held in the Kurdish-controlled areas since 1992. Foreign and local election observers reported that the elections generally were fair. The KDP, PUK, and opposition groups committed human rights abuses. However, the PUK and KDP have enacted laws establishing an independent judiciary, providing for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to form political parties, and women's and workers' rights, and, according to press reporting and independent observers, both groups generally observed such laws in practice. In addition both the PUK and KDP have established human rights ministries to monitor human rights conditions, to submit reports to relevant international bodies, including the ICRC, on worthy cases, and to recommend ways to end abuses.

Source: U.S. Department of State

[Reconstruction] The US State Department launched the Future of Iraq Project in July 2002. The Project offers Iraqi Americans, Iraqi Europeans and Iraqis from the region opportunities to meet together to determine useful projects that can be done between now and a change of government in Baghdad, as well as in the immediate aftermath of a transition. The Department of State serves as a facilitator. Once the free Iraqis determine their priorities, the U.S. government, and possibly other governments and institutions, decide what programs to fund and support. A similar program has been undertaken by the American Enterprise Institute.

[War Crimes Trials]

The United States government has indicated that in the event of a war with Iraq it would bring senior Iraqi officials to trial before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity.

Law Schools

There are three principal law schools in Iraq, located in the University of Baghdad, the University of Mustansereyyah, and the University of Mosul. Advocates trained in these institutions may appear in all Iraqi courts, including the Shari誕 Courts. Lawyers are organized in a single Iraqi Bar Association, presided over by a president.

Source: UNDP Programme on Governance in the Arab Region