law


Will Iraq’s new “Tribal Court” Undermine Rule of Law?

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Amid Iraqi calls to reinforce the rule of law and strengthen Iraqi state institutions, the Ministry of Justice announced March 28 a new initiative for “arbitration” among tribes, allowing a team of tribal elders to intervene as arbitrators in resolving all possible disputes and conflicts between Iraqi tribes.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Justice, this team of 47 tribal leaders will be called “al-Awaref,” selected by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in virtue of a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Justice and to be charged with several tasks, most notably reducing the expansion of tribal conflicts and focusing on “bringing about community peace” in Iraqi provinces.

The 47 arbitrators will work voluntarily and receive no salaries from the Iraqi state. In addition to undergoing a background check by the Ministry of the Interior, their names were presented to tribal leaders for approval.

A March 28 statement issued by the Ministry of Justice noted that the ministry “has adopted a team of well-known tribal arbitrators to resolve disputes,” describing them as “a safety valve for the community, which will have a major role in strengthening security and establishing community peace in all provinces of the country.”

Abboud al-Issawi, the head of the tribal committee in parliament and a staunch supporter of the initiative, told Al-Monitor, “[The initiative] will support the law, preserve tribal life and prevent any abuse by persons who have nothing to do with it and do not follow its religious and social criteria.”

Issawi said, “This initiative will neither be too different from Islamic law nor will it be contrary to human rights. In the coming phase, we will work on making it more organized and consistent with the work of the Iraqi state.”

The arbitrators will be allocated to different Iraqi provinces: four arbitrators in Baghdad, two in al-Karkh and two in al-Rusafa, while other provinces will be assigned either one or two arbitrators, all of whom will be directly affiliated to the Ministry of Justice.

Sarhan al-Fatlawi, a sheikh from al-Fatla tribe, told Al-Monitor, “Such a bill can be of use to highlight the role of tribes in building the community and supporting the Iraqi state, especially as Iraqi tribes have achievements throughout the history of the country. So we do not see any harm in such a bill that will put a stop to those who encourage tribal revenge.”

He added, “Tribal problems are aggressively developing into conflicts for simple and minor reasons, all because of those who considered themselves tribal sheikhs when — in fact — they were not. We believe that the tribal arbitration bill will be essential for tribes and will help end issues before they develop into armed clashes, such as those that occur in some areas of southern Iraq.”

Meanwhile, the arbitration initiative comes at a time when conflicts between the Iraqi tribes dramatically escalate, especially in the provinces of southern Iraq where conflicts are constantly evolving and involving the use of medium and heavy weapons.

According to activist and blogger Ibrahim al-Fatlawi, this bill was not welcomed by civil society, which considered it to be “propaganda” for political parties, undermining the work of Iraqi state institutions.

He told Al-Monitor, “We live in a country known to have enacted laws 7,000 years ago, so how can we accept projects and decisions that strengthen the power and influence of tribes within the institutions of the Iraqi state?”

Fatlawi expressed his surprise with “the lack of parliamentary action to undercut the work of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior through the tribal arbitration project, which will abolish the role of law little by little.”

The tribal arbitration initiative could violate the Iraqi Constitution, which stipulates in Article 45, paragraph 2, that “the state shall seek the advancement of the Iraqi clans … in a way that contributes to the development of society. The state shall prohibit the tribal traditions that are in contradiction with human rights.” Here lies the problem in some tribal traditions that violate the law and human rights principles.

Some of these traditions involve males preventing their first-degree female relatives from marrying someone else, should they wish to marry the females themselves. Other traditions that violate human rights include vengeance and separation, which give tribal sheikhs the right to determine how much money an offender’s family should pay to the victim’s family as compensation, in the event of any problem.

Rahman al-Jobori, a senior researcher at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, told Al-Monitor, “After thousands of years of Iraqi civilization, the state comes up with such an initiative for electoral purposes, instead of enacting a proper law approved by the state.”

Jobori said, “This project is substandard. The Iraqi state needs to work in accordance with international mechanisms for human rights and institutional work, and such an effort cannot enhance the role and authority of the law and treat everyone equally.”

It seems that the work of the team of arbitrators will be parallel to that of the Iraqi judiciary; the 47 arbitrators will form a committee and the conflicting parties can either resort to the judiciary or to the arbitrators who were introduced, in training courses, to the need to issue decisions that do not oppose Islamic provisions and Iraqi law.

Legal Assistance for Vulnerable Households in Mosul

UN-Habitat provided legal assistance to 1,015 vulnerable households in Mosul to address their housing, land and property rights claims

UN-Habitat in collaboration with its implementing partner, the local NGO Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid, concluded the activities funded by the 2017 Iraq Humanitarian Pooled Fund to address housing, land and property rights (HLP) of vulnerable people in Mosul.

Under this project, UN-Habitat assessed ten neighbourhoods in East Mosul where many displaced persons from the west of the city have settled. The surveys covered 3,083 houses, reaching a total of 19,261 individuals, and aimed to identify HLP incidents and needs of vulnerable households in East Mosul.

Accordingly, 61% of the surveyed households reported that their house was partially or fully destroyed, while more than 33% had no legal occupancy/ownership documents linked to their current residence.

As such, UN-Habitat undertook an information dissemination and awareness raising campaign related to households’ HLP rights and available redress mechanisms through the distribution of leaflets, as well as awareness raising sessions with beneficiaries seeking information on HLP.

Among those, seven sessions were conducted exclusively for females to provide them with a safe and comfortable space to raise their issues and concerns. Mahdia Hamed Ismail, highlighted how she benefited from the help:

“My house was flattened in East Mosul by the war. We were sitting on the floor and we still are as we neither filed nor received any compensation. UN-Habitat’s legal partners visited my house, took my information, helped me fill in the compensation application, and filed the claim in court on my behalf. I would like to thank them for keeping us in mind, and for making the effort to support us.”

As a result of the strong commitment and work ethic of the community representatives (Mukhtars), as well as other local authorities, including the Mosul court, the project was able to provide legal assistance on lease and ownership issues to 1,015 vulnerable families, 29% of which were female-headed households.

The majority of the households who have been impacted by the previous hostilities are in need of support with filing their claims at court. HLP issues are a major challenge for returnees and households in areas previously controlled by ISIL, and can only be solved by legal representation in courts, and/or community-based land mitigation mechanisms.

The authorities in Mosul face many challenges in responding to the high number of claims related to HLP violations, which are a major driving force of conflict and social tension. The cost of not promptly addressing these issues will be too much to bear in the future.

In this regard, the housing registration directorate will be re-established and functioning in Hay Al-Zuhur on 17 February 2018, which marks a significant step in facilitating the production/restoration of occupancy, rental, or ownership documents. UN-Habitat is committed to support the efforts of the authorities and increase its HLP interventions in Mosul, and other areas in Iraq in 2018.

(Source: UN)

Lawyers get Death Threats but Won’t go to Police

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Narim Rostam.

For lawyers working on sensitive cases, especially corruption cases, in Iraqi Kurdistan, death and other threats are just part of the job.

On New Year’s Eve in the district of Bakhtiari, in Iraqi Kurdistan, there was gunfire at local lawyer Omar Tawfik’s house. But this hail of bullets was not celebratory. Tawfik believes he was targeted by unknown assailants and blames those who previously threatened him.

Tawfik received these threats because he was involved in a complex court case, that started in 2012 but has yet to be resolved, around corruption involving land sales and senior politicians and administrators. The case saw the arrest of the then-mayor of Sulaymaniyah, Zana Hama Salih, who died in mysterious circumstances while in custody.

Tawfik says he knew he would be threatened as a result of this case – even though he hasn’t been able to make much difference, he says.

The fact that those working in the legal profession are threatened is nothing new in Iraqi Kurdistan. However recently the frequency of the threats and attacks seems to have increased.

Last year, many local lawyers said at one time or another, that they were threatened. But not many of them want to chase those who harass them nor do they like disclosing the details of the threats. This is a worldwide phenomenon – lawyers are often threatened but they don’t often report the threats to the police.

In fact, details released by the Kurdistan Bar Association say that out of their 9,000 or so members, only 7 were threatened last year.

Changes To Marriage Law Erode Women’s Rights

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Changes To Marriage Law Just One Small Part Of Erosion Of Iraqi Women’s Status

On October 30, Iraq’s parliament made a decision that stirred up much anger around the country. They agreed to make amendments to the country’s personal status law in principle. The proposed changes have been a subject of controversy for years but this time it seems that politicians may finally be getting their way.

In most Muslim countries, issues like divorce, custody of children and marriage are ruled by religious law, or Sharia. However in 1959, the Iraqi government passed a new personal status law, based on the law of the land that treated all sects and ethnicities equally. This is Law Number 188 and it is still in effect today, with rulings on related issues made by government-run courts.

As Germany’s Heinrich Boell foundation has reported, the current Iraqi law is based on religious rules but it took a more liberal approach. “It restricts child marriages (by setting the legal age of marriage at 18 years), bans forced marriages and restricts polygamy; it curtails men’s prerogatives in divorce, expands women’s rights in divorce, extends child custody to mothers, and improves inheritance rights for women,” the foundation has stated. “It remains one of the most liberal laws in the Arab world with respect to women’s rights.”

The latter quality is something that many modern Iraqis have been proud of. Hence the uproar when news broke about the agreement to amend the personal status law.

Those amendments have been a long time coming. Shortly after the regime headed by former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was removed by a US-led invasion, the new Iraqi government stated its intention to change Law 188 and to reinstate religious courts on a sectarian basis – that is, cases would be heard by either a Sunni or Shiite Muslim court, depending on the sect of those using the law. Ever since 2004, protests by civil society organisations have managed to prevent this.

But it seems that this time the politicians may be able to make the changes they have sought for so long – even though it seems that any actual amendments will be a far longer time coming.

Changes To Marriage Law Erode Women’s Rights

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Changes To Marriage Law Just One Small Part Of Erosion Of Iraqi Women’s Status

On October 30, Iraq’s parliament made a decision that stirred up much anger around the country. They agreed to make amendments to the country’s personal status law in principle. The proposed changes have been a subject of controversy for years but this time it seems that politicians may finally be getting their way.

In most Muslim countries, issues like divorce, custody of children and marriage are ruled by religious law, or Sharia. However in 1959, the Iraqi government passed a new personal status law, based on the law of the land that treated all sects and ethnicities equally. This is Law Number 188 and it is still in effect today, with rulings on related issues made by government-run courts.

As Germany’s Heinrich Boell foundation has reported, the current Iraqi law is based on religious rules but it took a more liberal approach. “It restricts child marriages (by setting the legal age of marriage at 18 years), bans forced marriages and restricts polygamy; it curtails men’s prerogatives in divorce, expands women’s rights in divorce, extends child custody to mothers, and improves inheritance rights for women,” the foundation has stated. “It remains one of the most liberal laws in the Arab world with respect to women’s rights.”

The latter quality is something that many modern Iraqis have been proud of. Hence the uproar when news broke about the agreement to amend the personal status law.

Those amendments have been a long time coming. Shortly after the regime headed by former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was removed by a US-led invasion, the new Iraqi government stated its intention to change Law 188 and to reinstate religious courts on a sectarian basis – that is, cases would be heard by either a Sunni or Shiite Muslim court, depending on the sect of those using the law. Ever since 2004, protests by civil society organisations have managed to prevent this.

But it seems that this time the politicians may be able to make the changes they have sought for so long – even though it seems that any actual amendments will be a far longer time coming.

Jiyad: Refining Investment Law should be Rejected or Redrafted

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Remarks on the Second Amendment of Oil Refining Investment Law 64 of 2007

The Second Amendment of Oil Refining Investment Law has specific very serious flaws, and should be either rejected or redrafted.

The proposed amendment was posted on the Parliament website, giving the opportunity for the public and professionals alike to have their say in the proposed laws. This move by the legislating authority is highly appreciated, since good governance comprises many components, among them transparency, participation and recognition of rights to information.

This intervention is partly responding to such call by the Parliament, considering the imminent voting on the amendment; but mostly it is a continuation to my consistent follow-up of the development in the petroleum sector and sustainable development effort, or lack of it, in the country.

More specificly, the purpose of this intervention is to identify the flaws in the proposed legislation, to explain why they are so, and to propose practical alternatives.

Please click here to download Ahmed Mousa Jiyad’s full report.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya@online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad’s biography here.

Why Law Grads are Overwhelming Iraq’s Job Market

Why Law Graduates are Overwhelming Iraq’s Job Market

The number of students admitted to Iraqi law schools has soared in recent years, flooding the market with job-hungry graduates. The intense competition forces them to work for a fraction of customary charges — if they can find work at all.

According to the Student Guide for Central Admission in Iraqi Universities for the 2015-16 academic year, there are 19 public law programs. Meanwhile, the admissions guide for private universities shows 29 accredited faculties.

The legal profession has been of great importance in the modern history of Iraq, as lawyers have played many roles in politics, being the first to fill government jobs and lead political movements in the monarchy. They made up a well-regarded societal elite when their numbers were small.

But after the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, the government suffered from mismanagement and ill-considered decisions — including the expansion of universities without consideration for graduates’ futures. The proliferation of graduates is becoming more obvious as the job market in Iraq is declining.

The competition for government jobs is strong, so recent high school graduates hedge their bets by enrolling in fields that ostensibly could lead to jobs in the private sector, such as law. Moreover, it’s relatively easy to gain admittance to a bar association. Under Iraqi law, conditions have been simple: Besides a good resume and good conduct, Iraqis just needed a law degree from a college accredited by the government.

The bar association on Sept. 5 did toughen admission conditions somewhat. Applicants now must file a form of several pages providing the names of five lawyers from the association chamber in the applicant’s province who endorse the applicant. However, it remains to be seen if these procedures will help slow the flow of new applicants, and the changes do nothing to address the current overcrowding.