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HRW: The Quality of Justice
Flagship Court "Is Failing" to Meet Due Process and Fairness Standards
12/16/2008 2:09 PM ET

Here are the first few paragraphs of the summary of the newly released Human Rights Watch report entitled "The Quality of Justice: Failings of Iraq's Central Criminal Court."

The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) is the country's flagship criminal justice institution. Yet it is an institution that is seriously failing to meet international standards of due process and fair trials. Defendants often endure long periods of pretrial detention without judicial review, and are not able to pursue a meaningful defense or challenge evidence against them. Abuse in detention, typically with the aim of extracting confessions, appears common, thus tainting court proceedings in those cases.

The failings of the court are all the more striking because of the stakes riding on it. The CCCI, established by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003, commands greater resources and broader authority than any other Iraqi criminal justice institution. Its mandate encompasses the critical task of coping with security-related criminal cases under the framework of Iraqi law, including the country's constitution and penal code. The CPA decree that established the court cites the importance of "development of a judicial system in Iraq that warrants the trust, confidence and respect of the Iraqi people." Far from serving as a model criminal justice institution, the court has failed to provide basic assurances of fairness, undermining the concept of a national justice system serving the rule of law.

Human Rights Watch monitored court proceedings and met with judges, defense attorneys, defendants, and others. We found that the majority of defendants endured lengthy pretrial detention without judicial review, that they had ineffectual legal counsel, and the court frequently relied on the testimony of secret informants and confessions likely to have been extracted under duress. Judges in many instances acknowledged these failings and dismissed some cases accordingly, particularly those involving alleged torture, but the numbers of cases where such allegations arise suggest that serious miscarriages of justice are frequent. Human Rights Watch also monitored a limited number of cases involving children, and found that the authorities failed to hold them separately from adult detainees, and that their access to counsel and prompt legal hearings was no better than that of adults.

Download the 48-page PDF here, iraq1208webwcover.pdf, or scroll through the document below. The report is also available on the Human Rights Watch website.

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