Justice system restarts in Iraq

09 May 2003
The Iraqi justice apparatus began functioning again on 8 May, with a small number of minor trials beginning in Baghdad, as coalition forces turned their attention to reforming the system. US National Security Council member, Clint Williamson, appointed to advise the Iraqi Justice Ministry, told reporters that an old legal code will be used. 'Since 1969, a number of amendments were made which are inconsistent with international standards like the Geneva and Hague conventions,' he said. 'These will be suspended.' The handful of trials in Baghdad were mostly for violent acts since the end of the war. Courts were staffed by judges who worked under the previous regime, but questions are being asked as to whether this can continue given the use of the courts by the Baath regime as a political tool. 'It's a bit of a trial run,' said Williamson. 'Having courts starting to hear cases instils confidence in people that the situation is normalising and that these people are being dealt with. And it serves as a deterrent.'

Williamson also spoke about the process for dealing with former members of Saddam Hussein's regime. 'There is a broad consensus that crimes against the Iraqi people be handled by the Iraqi people,' he said. 'Prosecution involving crimes on a large scale will mobilise the system for years, so we need to set up some sort of special arrangements to deal with it.' However, Washington has made clear that it wants any Iraqis accused of war crimes against Americans to be tried by the US, rejecting calls for the establishment of an independent tribunal along the lines of those set up after the conflicts in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The Bush administration complains that the process is too long and expensive. Such courts also have no power to impose the death penalty.

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