Iraqi leaders and United States Division-South legal experts met recently to discuss rule of law at the Basra Operations Command (BaOC) Commander's Legal Conference.

The event was organized at the behest of the BaOC commanding general Staff Lt. Gen. Muhammad Jawad Huwaidi. For the stability of Iraq, Huwaidi deemed it necessary to bring together the key leaders and their legal advisors to talk about the specifics of established legal processes.

"The rule of law states that all persons, organizations and institutions are treated fairly under the law with no favoritism given and no bias to the system," said Capt. Joe Strawn, chief of rule of law for the 1st Infantry Division and USD-S.

The Iraqis' request for a conference derived not from an unfamiliarity with the law, but from the lack of experience with practical application of the law.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the legal atmosphere, and the established methods that law enforcement personnel are required to adhere to, in Iraq have changed significantly, Strawn said.

"That means having the police put together a packet of evidence and taking it to a judge and asking the judge to issue a warrant," said Strawn.

Dave Hall from the Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team gave the attendees a class on effective techniques they could employ in putting together an evidence packet.

Over thirty individuals attended the meeting which included representatives from the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Department of Border Enforcement, Ministry of Defense Inspector General, Iraqi highway patrol and members of the judiciary.

"There were representatives from the whole spectrum of the criminal justice system as well as the military establishment," said Strawn.

The conference resulted from a month of planning between the Basra PRT, the BaOC Military Transition Team, and USD-S. All were pleased with the outcome of the conference.

"We wanted a great forum," said Lt. Col. Russell Jackson, 1st Inf. Div. Deputy SJA. "Things really fell into place."

Jackson said the value of the conference was in getting all of the entities involved in the legal and judiciary process together to sit and foster discussions that each unit had that would result in a better understanding of the legal system in Iraq.

"Stability requires that the rule of law actually be in place," said Jackson. "A functioning system to investigate criminal activity, capture the accused and bring him to justice and to make sure that due process follows."

"It's important that they talk about these issues," Strawn said. "The fact that they requested this class demonstrates they recognize the importance of law."

"We can see they are making their system work," said Jackson.

Staff Lt. Gen. Huwaidi said the next step is to apply the lessons they have learned into reality.

"That's where we have to go forward to make it happen," he said.

Although the conference was intended to be a single event, the teams involved hope to use it as a springboard for future events and to continue to build the relationship between the BaOC and Basra judiciaries.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16