War on Terrorism

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Forum Aids Legal System in Iraqi Province

By Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 17, 2009 - Through a coordinated effort to improve relationships between Iraqi police and judges, the provincial reconstruction team in Iraq's Basra province and the 17th Fires Brigade legal team set up a conference Nov. 7. The four-hour conference covered topics such as the responsibilities of their respective investigation officers and the state of the facilities that house Basra's prisoners.

"Our purpose today is to combine our efforts to come up with joint solutions that will increase our effectiveness and make Basra safer," said Chief Judge Khazal Dabol Qasim. "Only by working together will we be able to assess this current system and implement a strategy based from all the encompassing information and target key problems that we must improve."

A questionnaire regarding the roles and responsibilities of the investigation officers was handed out at the meeting's beginning. The form asked questions that helped to spark debate on the effectiveness of the police and judicial investigative processes.

"We can't prosecute anyone until we have evidence against that person; that's why it's important to arrive at the scene of these crimes immediately and conduct a thorough investigation," said Fallah, a lawyer with the Maqel, Iraq, court. "This is something that the investigation [police] officers are currently failing to do. We need more experienced professionals in these positions to handle such a crucial part of the judiciary process."

Capt. Adann Haydar, an officer with the Karmat Ali police, agreed that more extensive training was required so the investigation officers could learn to better perform the duties required of them, and that he would request training assistance from his department's partners at the 17th Fires Brigade and British civil police.

"We need more training and equipment to be able to perform all that is being asked of us," Haydar said, "but we also need the help of the judges and the ministry to provide us with the proper equipment and operating structure."

The Iraqi police provide the manpower, but need improved techniques and training, said Army Spc. Keagan W. Geer, a 17th Fires Brigade paralegal specialist and native of Stanton, Iowa.

"I feel Iraqi police have the personnel to conduct investigations properly," he said. "What they need is more defined roles and advanced training, specifically in the areas of criminal behavior, crime-scene evaluation and interviewing techniques."

After a brief intermission, the conference shifted focus toward the province's jails. Complaints of outdated buildings with small rooms, insufficient room to hold female and juvenile detainees, and lack of proper processing equipment were among the main concerns.

With more than 500 detainees, the jails are filled beyond capacity. Some detainees are held with very little evidence against them, while others have been detained for almost two years without legal counsel.

"We are addressing the situation of holding detainees for extended periods of time," said Iraqi Police Brig. Gen. Eedan. "The training that we'll conduct will include step-by-step instruction on how to properly evaluate a crime scene, gather evidence and question witnesses, all of which will help us to alleviate our overpopulated facilities and put in place a better judicial system."

Along with Qasim, members of the provincial reconstruction team and the 17th Fires Brigade legal team are developing a project to create at least 20 new jobs for junior attorneys who would serve as public defenders, providing the detainees with legal representation.

At the conference, the police and judges were able to openly discuss the issues hindering development of an integrated judicial system. They agreed to meet monthly in hopes of developing stronger relations and solving issues.

"The [provincial reconstruction team] did a fantastic job of opening the lines of communication between the two sides," Geer said. "This is the only way that the problems they are facing will have any chance of seeing an eventual solution, which will only benefit the people of Basra as a community."

(Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway serves with the 17th Fires Brigade.)

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