- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

A group of Iraqi jurists will present to the United Nations today a plan for a total revamping of the nation’s courts, police and laws, including a truth and reconciliation commission.

Compiled over the past year by a group of former Iraqi judges, lawyers and law professors, the “transitional justice plan” identifies and outlines the necessary mechanisms, rules and laws to transform Iraq into a society governed by the rule of law, the group says.

The blueprint “is aimed at transforming an unstable and chaotic state, caused by a dictatorship with a legacy of gross human rights abuses, to a democratic, pluralistic system which respects the rule of law,” said Judge Fuad Jawad Ridha, board member of Iraqi Jurists Association and a former senior ranking judge who left Iraq in 1989.

The group, which came together under the umbrella of the State Department-supported Working Group on Transitional Justice on the Future of Iraq Project and the Iraqi Jurists’ Association (IJA), was to hand the report over to the United Nations today.

“We’re going to the United Nations to put an international focus on the issue of re-establishing the rule of law in Iraq given the lawlessness and the breakdown in civil order in Iraq,” said Sermid Al-Sarraf, a Los Angeles based Iraqi-American lawyer and IJA member.

The IJA includes Iraqi exiles based in the United States, England and Australia.

Serious divisions between the Pentagon and the State Department on how best to reconstruct Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein have troubled the United States’ effort to get Iraq back on track.

“With the split between State and Defense, it seems that not enough attention is being paid to Iraqi professionals dealing with the situation,” said a source close to the process, adding: “This is bigger than the Pentagon. This is about re-establishing the rule of law in Iraq.”

Copies of the report have already been sent to the State Department and passed to the Pentagon, said a source within the group, and additional copies are being provided to the Department of Justice and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Both the 250-page English version and roughly 750-page Arabic versions were to be formally released to the public today in both Baghdad and New York.

“We do want to emphasize that there are Iraqi jurists who have the qualification and the ability to have a significant impact on what is happening there, and they should be consulted and involved in the process,” said Mr. Al-Sarraf in a telephone interview from New York.

The IJA is presenting the report to the legal and political affairs offices of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as to the U.N. Development Program bureau of crisis, recovery and prevention.

“This is our first step,” said Mr. Al-Sarraf.

One of the reasons the group is not going directly to the U.N. Security Council with the report, said the source, is because of concern among the Iraqi jurists about the role of France and Germany in trying to block the war against Saddam. But the source did not rule out the possibility.

The plan would dissolve the Ba’ath Party — a step already taken by the U.S. military — and provide compensation for victims of Saddam’s regime. It has revised a nationality law that would conform to universal standards of human rights.

The plan also would “overhaul the penal code, military code, amend military-trial procedures, eliminate emergency and special courts set up under Saddam, and repeal the ruling-party law,” said Mr. Ridha, who flew to New York from Chicago for the presentation.

Based on the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, the blueprint establishes a human rights bill, amends the prison laws, abolishes the special security apparatus and establishes a high constitutional court, he said.

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