Iraq: No second class justice for victims of Iraqi authorities or recent conflict

The organisation underlined the need to ensure justice for the victims of decades of human rights abuses by the Iraqi authorities and violations of international law during the recent conflict.

'Proposals for using US or UK tribunals are undesirable, since they risk being perceived as victors' justice. Certain proposals such as the use of US military commissions, which are not even courts, would be grossly unfair under international law,' Amnesty International emphasised.

In a new document released today, Iraq: Ensuring justice for human rights abuses, Amnesty International calls for the urgent establishment of a United Nations (UN) commission of experts to develop proposals for a program that would address comprehensively the issue of justice in Iraq, in close consultation with Iraqi civil society. A similar UN commission previously led to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia being established. The commission should begin work immediately and could report in a matter of months.

'Ensuring justice is fundamental for the countless victims of decades of grave violations of human rights by Iraqi government agents, as well as the victims of abuses committed by all parties in the course of several conflicts, including the ongoing war. In order to be fair and effective, all measures aimed at ensuring justice must be in full conformity with international human rights law and standards,' Amnesty International said.

'Neither victims nor suspects should receive second class justice.'

In the eight-page report, the organisation outlines the role of the UN commission of experts and sets out fundamental principles which should govern any approach to ensuring justice for abuses in Iraq. It outlines the need for reforming the Iraqi criminal justice system, and reviews transitional and complementary approaches that ought to be considered as part of a comprehensive program to ensure justice.

'The fundamental basis of justice in Iraq must be a reformed Iraqi criminal justice system,' Amnesty International said, 'But this may need long-term support, so it is essential that transitional arrangements are developed.

'No in-depth authoritative analysis of the situation in Iraq has been carried out as yet. This is why expert advice is essential.'

Amnesty International stresses that the UN has recognised expertise and authoritativeness in this field. As such, the UN should play the leading role in developing proposals for reforming the Iraqi criminal justice system and could recommend transitional and complementary approaches in the meantime, regardless of the arrangements made for governing Iraq.

Possible transitional approaches under consideration include an international ad hoc tribunal and a mixed tribunal. Existing approaches including universal jurisdiction, could make an important contribution, and a regional tribunal should be examined. Amnesty International's report discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches under consideration.

Fundamental principles, drawn form international law, that must govern any approach to justice in Iraq include:

  • independence and impartiality: any tribunal must be, and be seen to be, truly independent from all possible perpetrators - including parties to the conflict. It must pursue perpetrators solely on the basis of the evidence against them and through a fair process, in accordance with international standards for fair trial;
  • no selectivity: anyone suspected of having committed crimes in Iraq must be brought to justice, regardless of rank, nationality, or any other such ground;
  • no statue of limitations: grave abuses must be addressed regardless of when they occurred;
  • no amnesties: there should be no amnesties, pardons or similar measures for crimes under international law if such measures would prevent a conclusive verdict and full reparations for victims;
  • fair trials: suspects should be brought to justice in proceedings that fully respect international law and standards for fair trial at all stages of the proceedings;
  • no death penalty and torture: there should be no recourse to the death penalty or other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, whatever the circumstances;
  • reparation for victims: victims and their families must be accorded effective means to obtain full reparation for the violations they have suffered.

Further information

For the full text of the report Iraq: Ensuring justice for human rights abuses please go to: http:\\web.amnesty.org\pages\irq-engmde140802003

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