Iraq: Judicial experts needed to ensure fairness of new courts

The organisation was reacting to the reported announcement yesterday by the Provisional Governing Council of Iraq that it intended to set up a special court for crimes under the previous government.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Trials of those who committed crimes against humanity and other crimes under the previous Iraqi government must be fair and seen to be fair. They should be conducted by an impartial and independent court in accordance with international human rights standards.'

Amnesty International has recommended that Iraqi judicial experts work together with international experts to assess the situation of the Iraqi judicial system, including its capacity to ensure fair trials in the short term, and explore options for bringing perpetrators to justice. These options could include the participation of non-Iraqi judges, for example from other Arab countries and elsewhere, in proceedings against perpetrators of past crimes.

Whatever system is chosen, it must ensure respect for international human rights standards. Specific issues that will need to be addressed in accordance with such standards include:

  • the definition of the crimes;
  • the trial procedures;
  • the definition of the punishments, which should not include the death penalty;
  • the criteria for selecting the judges and prosecutors; and
  • the protection of judges, prosecutors and witnesses.

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