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4/18/04 - JUSTICE IN IRAQ - 2004-04-19

The concept of the rule of law is taking hold in Iraq. On April 14th, a three-judge panel of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court tried and convicted three Iraqi men for actions against coalition forces. The defendants were tried with a prosecutor and defense council present. The men were detained near Balad on November 20th after being discovered burying a homemade bomb. They were sentenced to prison terms of ten years each.

Iraq’s Central Criminal Court was established in June 2003 and has jurisdiction over crimes committed since March 2003, when Iraq was liberated. Since its founding, the court has handled more than three-hundred cases. No one is above the law. In November 2003, the court sentenced Abu Haydar Abdul Munim, the former governor of Najaf, to fourteen years in prison. He was found guilty of “illegal arrest, destruction of a government document, and misuse of office.”

“You know, as do we all, that much work remains,” says Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator. "But in the quest for justice, as with electricity and many other things, there is real progress."

More needs to be done. U.S. General Mark Kimmitt says, “It was clear over the last couple of weeks that the progress [the coalition] had hoped to have made...on the Iraqi security forces is not as far along as we would have expected”:

“But before we suggest that all the forces just walked away from the fight, in fact there have been numerous forces that when mustered went to where they needed to be, and have performed brilliantly. In Fallujah, we have two battalions of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that are fighting alongside coalition forces. In many towns, the Iraqi police service has come back to man their stations.”

“Things are better now,” says Colonel Ali Kherallah, an Iraqi police official in Basra. But, “It’s the job of every Iraqi to keep law and order.”