By Kendal Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 16, 2009 - Iraq is moving closer to establishing sovereign national and provincial judiciaries, as evidenced with the June 13 opening of Ramadi's Anbar Judicial Complex.
"A nation's development depends on the respect for the sovereignty of the law," Anbar province Chief Justice Mohammad Rajab Al-Kobaisi said at the opening ceremony.
The $21.5 million construction and renovation project was managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division and was paid for by the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, the Iraq Security Forces Fund, and the Iraq Interim Government Fund.
Marking another milestone in Anbar's transition from violence to peace, the chief justice stood in a former palace villa of the Saddam family and made pointed reference to the former infamous regime.
"The importance of laws in the community becomes clear," Al-Kobaisi said. "As an Arabic poet says, the basis of law is one of morals, and if a nation has no morals, it is done."
Beneath a wooden sign extolling fairness by those who rule others, Al-Kobaisi reminded the audience of key Iraqi tribal, government, police and military officials of the need in every stable society to achieve moral justice, with respect and fairness for all.
"The judicial complex is a shining symbol of a new era in Iraq," said James Soriano, U.S. State Department team chief of Anbar's Provincial Reconstruction Team.
"Anbar province has departed from a long night of the insurgency," Soriano said at the ceremony. "Today is a new day.
"The first obligation of the state is to maintain order and stability. After that, the second objective is equally as important," he said. "The people need a strong and independent judiciary. The rule of law makes economic progress possible."
Al-Kobaisi and other provincial justices will administer judgments in three courthouses, part of the Corps' first phase of renovations, which transformed two larger former palace villas to several smaller courthouses that include a central courtroom, investigation offices, bathrooms and judges' chambers. One courtroom is for criminal proceedings and the other is an appellate court. The third palace villa is a smaller courthouse to be used as an investigative facility. Included in the renovations are a pre-trial detention buildings and a cafeteria.
The Corps' recently completed second phase provides newly constructed living quarters for the justices, as well as barracks for the junior and senior security guards, allowing all to live in a secure environment. Student billeting and classrooms to incorporate training for court reporting and paralegal workers also are complete. Training units for the guards and housing for the detainees provide additional support structures.
The complex also includes a recently completed electrical generator facility, water treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, facilities for refrigeration and laundry, a supply warehouse and equipment storage facility.
Both Al-Kobaisi and Soriano praised the work of the Corps' Ramadi office staff in completing the many tasks to bring the project from concept to conclusion.
Ramadi is the provincial capital and one of several of the province's Sunni-majority towns along the Euphrates River that were strongholds for Saddam.
In a sign of changing times, Sunni Awakening leader Sheikh Ahmad Abu-Risha attended at the ceremony. Abu-Risha knows well the price of promoting justice as his father and four brothers died at the hands of al-Qaida.
Namir al-Iqabi, chief executive officer of Almco Group and contractor for the project, summed up the sentiment of many Anbaris for the transformation of the judicial complex.
"Al-Anbar was the hottest area in Iraq," said al-Iqabi. "But the locals welcomed this project. They want the rule of law to overtake everything else that has happened."
As Iraq strives to build a secure, stable and self-governing nation, the Corps has completed hundreds of projects in the security and justice sector, 59 courthouses and correctional facilities.
(Kendal Smith works in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Central public affairs office).