November 17, 2018

International Conference for Iraqi Judges

Ambassador of Iraq. H.E. Mr. Hisham Al-Alawi.

By Marwan Hani Osseiran, Visiting Professional, ICC.

Earlier this summer, H.E. Hisham Al-Alwi, Ambassador of Iraq to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in cooperation with the Terrorism Prevention branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC/TPB) held an international conference for Iraqi Judges on “the accountability of ISIL/Dae’sh crimes in Iraq: collection of evidence, prosecution, trials and international cooperation”, at the Embassy in The Hague.

I attended on behalf of Diplomat Magazine on the 11th& 12th of July 2018, to cover this important event which brought together a group of senior Iraqi judges dealing with terrorist cases involving ISIL/Dae’sh in Iraq as well as experts from the international criminal tribunals in The Hague and senior United Nations representatives including Mr. Karim Asad Khan, the newly appointed Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2379 (2017), to support domestic efforts to hold Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Dae’sh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group.

As a background, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Dae’sh) perpetrated serious and systematic violations in Iraq that amount to “international crimes’ since its capture of the city of Mosul in June 2014, including the nine-month battle for Mosul between the terrorist group and Iraqi Government forces.

Evidence shows that ISIL committed mass atrocities against civilians and Mosul itself, a city they claimed as their capital, but for which they sought its ultimate deliberate destruction. Dae’sh reign of terror has spared no one, inflicting untold suffering on unarmed residents.

However, after the defeat of ISIL, more than 12000 ISIL fighters were captured and detained in Iraqi prisons. As Iraq’s criminal justice response faced challenges regarding the big number of the terrorist group’s detainees as well as the difficulties related to investigating and prosecuting them, UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch brings its support to Iraqi criminal justice officials and law enforcement agencies in this regard such as, and including this pilot training conference.

The conference started with keynote speeches of high officials of the United Nations.

Mr. Jan Kubis, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq explained that UNAMI, as a political mission established in 2003 had a mandate to advise and assist the Government & People of Iraq in various issues among them promoting and protection of human rights and judicial and legal reforms. He stressed that the difficulties in Iraq are part of a global struggle about justice. UNAMI operates under constitutional and national laws of Iraq as in this case where specialized courts were created to deal with the Dae’sh crimes.

UNAMI is committed to assist the authorities in their quests to collect evidence needed for the prosecution of the crimes, as well as recover thousands of human remains and assist the victims of these crimes and their families.

International conference for Iraqi Judges on “the accountability of ISIL/Dae’sh crimes in Iraq: collection of evidence, prosecution, trials and international cooperation”, at the Embassy in The Hague.

Mr. Mauro Miedico, Chief, Implementation Support Section III, Terrorism Prevention Branch, UNODC delivered a concise note on the purpose of Pilot Training as well as the content of the latest draft adopted by the Government of Iraq detailing strategy, establishing associations for the support of victims, and specialisations of judges in the field of terrorism crimes.

In collaboration, the Government of Iraq offered UNODC an office in Baghdad where the focus will continue on prevention of terrorism, consolidation of efforts for training & support in the area of Cyber crimes as well.

Tasks:

Strengthen Peace & Security

Re-construction

Mr. Hisham Al Alwi, Ambassador of Iraq welcomed all the dignitaries and speakers. He highlighted the achievement of his government obtaining a final victory in a short period of time against Dae’sh. He reminded us that it wasn’t enough to defeat Dae’sh and that more efforts are needed to address the roots of the phenomena. Iraq is working on strengthening peace and security by promoting a culture of tolerance and dealing with people affected by these crimes.

On the other hand, Iraq faced destruction of a monumental scale which requires years of re-construction. Finally, His Excellency confirmed that his government is very keen on delivering justice for sake of victims and families in an exemplary manner.

No Crime without a law

Mr. Faeq Zeidan, Chief Justice, President of the Higher Judicial Council, Iraq, by parol, stated the pillars and legal principles for the Specialised Courts be it, right for a fair defence, right for Defence counsel, right for a fair trial, and that there will be no crime without a law.

Collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq and Syria of acts that may amount to international crimes;

Mr. Karim Khan, Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team for Iraq spoke about resolution 2379. He reiterated the condemnation of all violations of international humanitarian law, violations and abuses of international human rights law, and acts of terrorism. In his mandate as Special Adviser, the Investigate Team will support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group in Iraq, to the highest possible standards and to ensure the broadest possible use before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities and third parties.

Mrs. Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of the United Nations International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM for Syria) shared her experience on the task of collecting, preserving evidence and materials through establishing a memorandum of understanding and setting up an effective methodology.

The two-day conference continued with an array of experts from Judges, Registrar and Deputy Registrar, former prosecutors, senior legal officers, investigators, UN Detention Unit Commander, Chief of Victim Witness services and psychologists at the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the International Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers & Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

Moderators Mr. Ali Younes and Mr. Zouhair Racheha from the UNODC/TPB wrapped-up the conference with open questions and answers and invited H.E. Ambassador Al-Alwi to the podium who thanked the presenters and experts and encouraged the Iraqi judges of specialized courts for a big mission ahead of them overseeing the trials of more than 13,000 accused and more than one hundred thousand registered victims.

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