• Better ‘n Texas: Rule of Law in Iraq Executes 34 Prisoners in One Day

    January 25, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq

    One of the goals of the US in Iraq was to institute the “rule of law.” Under Saddam, people could be arrested for any reason, convicted without trial and executed on a whim. The US military sacrificed 4479 soldiers’ lives to fix this, though the task was largely handed to the State Department to carry out with the assistance of the Department of Justice.

    At the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) like the two I lead, implementing the Rule of Law was a standing priority– the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad (c) even has left the old cheery web pages online from those days, so have a look for yourself. In our area of operations, the law was pretty much either the tribal vengeance of our local Sheikhs, dispensing rudimentary justice like Tony Soprano might, or the heavy-handed actions of the local Iraqi Army commander. The police were scared of both sides, and usually stayed in the back room sleeping off the day’s heat, emerging to shake down merchants in the marketplace when business was good, or collect bribes at checkpoints for expedited service.

    Apparently such a cynical view of our work enhancing the rule of law in Iraq was not limited to the PRTs outside Baghdad. In fact, in 2008, Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s departing US advisor on these matters slammed the “rule of law” effort in Iraq, telling the cowlicked diplomat that “US officials in the country had mostly ignored legal culture institutions that address underlying requirements for the very success of the rule of law, such as the confidence of citizens, a preventive rather than punitive program against corruption, and the qualifications of the legal profession.”

    The advisor then quoted the President of the Iraqi Bar:

    America’s Rule of Law effort in Iraq has focused almost entirely on training police, building prisons, and supporting prosecutions. This is understandable. These areas are important to security but they represent a policeman’s and a prosecutor’s definition of what Rule of Law means. This definition is limited to law enforcement… [O]ur legal culture is in need of assistance and America’s millions of dollars have done little to assist our institutions…If you think that “implanting” the Rule of Law in Iraq is limited to your current Rule of Law efforts, then you are receiving poor advice.

    History does not record Ambassador Crocker’s reaction, likely because he had been scientifically trained to simply not hear things that disagree with State Department guidance. This physical trait, once rare, is now trained into most senior diplomats. Crocker was just ahead of his time ignoring the obvious, as was the State Department in general, which continues to “train Iraqi police” to the tune of some $3-5 billion dollars even as we speak.

    Instead, the World’s Largest Embassy (c) now has a permanent Rule of Law Coordinator, staffed by 200 personnel in eleven operational units of U.S. Embassy Baghdad. 200 people are working on this issue full time.

    Here is what they have achieved so far:

    The United Nations human rights chief said on January 24 that she was shocked at reports that 34 people were executed in Iraq in a single day last week. “Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated in a news release.

    “Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added. The death penalty can be imposed in Iraq for around 48 crimes, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as – under certain circumstances – damage to public property.

    “Most disturbingly,” said Ms. Pillay, “we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”

    …And thus the United States, at first under George Bush and now under Barack Obama, set out to create an Iraq in its own image. Sadly, tragically, it looks like we succeeded, Texas-style.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Lisa said...


      That IS a stunning number or executions, and yet our press seems strangely silent on the matter.

      Yes, democracy Texas-style … Judge Roy Bean, hallowed be his name.

      01/27/12 9:54 PM | Comment Link

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