November 13, 2003
Good afternoon. I'm Judge Rubini and I'm sitting in Iraq at about 9:15 in the evening as you are about 8 hours earlier on the East Coast and I eagerly await your questions.
Howard, from Loomis, CA
As a result of toppling Saddam's government, is the US necessarily
entitled to infringe its values and beliefs upon the people of Iraq by
directly influencing and redesigning their judicial system? Aren't the
citizens of Iraq capable, if not inherently obligated to establish their
own judicial system (with or without the blessing of the US)?
Thanks for the question, Howard. We never redesigned their legal system. We rolled back 35 years of thuggery and helped reestablish their own system. There is no redesign as the court system works well with honest judges and adequate support. Corruption was a serious problem. Iraqi judges are fully participating in modernizing court administration, presiding over trials of felons, and removing corrupt judges.
James, from Fort Erie, Canada
What is being done in order to modernize and "Americanize" the Iraqi
justice system, based on the strong constitutional government and the
Republican presidential regime of the U.S such as the 5th amendment, the
jury system, freedom of speech etc.?
The first action taken by the Coalition was to roll away 35 years of thuggery and eliminate rule by decree. We did not Americanize the system, but have sought to reintroduce universal concepts of fundamental fairness and due process. Rule of law can and is being accomplished, and the Iraqi system which resembles more the European civil code than the American system.
george, from hollywood california
i think that one of the great advantages of the united states taking the lead
in rebuilding iraq with a coalition of the willing rather than leaving
reconstruction to the united nations is that the iriqi people have the
opportunity to be exposed to the american model of the administration of
justice during the transition period to iraqi self-rule. that way the new
iraqi government will be able to see what america has to offer. how are you
presenting or promoting the american values of justice?
Thanks for the question.........
Iraqi people appreciate the American and European values of rule of law based on fundamental fairness and due process. They want an opportunity to earn a living, raise their families and practice a peaceful religion. They really dont want corruption, rule by a dictator, or violence by terrorists.
We are in a unique position to give them these opportunities. Seeing the Coalition partners reestablish a rule of law has opened the door to understanding that American and European people are not evil. They really dont want their religion perverted by violence and actually are quite thankful that we the outsiders are combating that violence.
wildcat, from aleppo writes:
what kind of justice your trying to impose in Iraq?
We are not imposing any system. Iraqi people are quite supportive of rolling back the past 35 years of thuggery. They want a rule of law based on fundamental fairness and due process. They want honest judges, police and government officials. They want an opportunity to earn a living in a fair system of commercial laws. Are they asking too much?
Kellen, from New York
Thank you for taking my question. What type of legal system does Iraq have
right now? Is it a lot like America's?
Iraqs legal system, without rule by decree from Saddam Hussein is more like a European system based on Spanish civil codes. It is not like the American system which is inherited from the British common law system.
Marvin, from Marshfield, Wisconsin
Has the administration issued a comprehensive set of laws that IRAQIs must
follow ( like not advocating overthrow of the US occupation).
The Iraqis have a good set of Iraqi laws to follow, with the exception of those from Saddam Hussein. There are some laws imposed for safety and security to combat terrorist like curfew laws and some areas closed off to the public.
Otherwise people obey Iraqs criminal laws and do business under their civil code. Free press is alive and well here. The only limits, just like in the US, are prohibitions against inciting violence.
Brooke, from Philadelphia, PA
Will it be possible to effectively balanace Civil Law, Criminal Law and
Sharia Law under one judicial system?
Are there any models, from other Islamic states, that can be utilized as a
point of reference?
Hey Philadelphia! That is where I am from. Just a bit further north in Newtown. It can be balanced but the separation of the religious laws from the civil laws will be heavily debated for years to come in a society that has no intention of returning to living like North Korea.
The Spanish civil code is a good example of what criminal and civil law would look like here. Even other Islamic states will debate for years to come what the proper role of Sharia law, women in their society, and freedom of religion.
Pam, from Seekon, Ma
Is the Iraqi judiciary made up of Iraqis or Americans?
Iraqis! There are no Americans or people from other Coalition countries in Iraqs judiciary. Some judges have been removed because of close ties to Saddams regime or corruption. The honest judges do a fine job. What they need is security that is freedom from violence -- so they can do their jobs. They need assistance to devise a modern system of court administration and operations.
Josiah, from Ohio writes:
Is there a Court of Appeals? Supreme court? Are Iraqi's afforded the same
rights as Americans as far as appealing verdicts? Thank You.
Yes. Yes. No! Well, Ill now expand a bit. The court system exists as it did 35 years ago before Saddam. The Coalition force rolled away 35 years of rule by decree. Not all of the same rights exist, but a good start has been made. A public defender system has been implemented. Corrupt judges are being removed. The judiciary is now an independent part of government no longer subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.
Gleason, from Compton writes:
When did you start your current job? How much progress have you made? Has it
been more challenging than you thought it would be?
I started this assignment in mid September. I followed Judge Donald Campbell who had served here since May. He completed his tour and returned to his judicial practice in New Jersey. We have made progress in helping the courts , however, as fast as we make progress we do have some setbacks from violence, imported terrorists and from Saddam's thugs trying to take back their previous privileges.
It certainly is a unique challenge. I served in Desert Storm, in Haiti and in Central America on the Hurricane Mitch reconstruction. This is my 4th deployment and each has been a serious challenge. Because of the singular importance of winning a war against terror, this is the most challenging.
Scott, from Washington DC
Judge Rubini -
What similarities does the Iraqi judiciary process have with the United
States? Also, what position does Iraq have concerning International
Court of Justice decisions?
In the organizational sense, the court system resembles the European process. It does not resemble U.S., although the same basic elements of preliminary investigation, trial with presumption of innocence, and right of appeal are all present. Right now we are not affected on a day to day basis by the international courts. And without further checking, I do not know what protocols previous Iraq governments signed regarding the International Courts.
Richard, from Detroit writes:
What is the reaction of Iraqis to this new form of justice?
The reaction of Iraqi people has been extremely positive. The only people who do not support this new justice are the imported terrorists and holdover thugs from Saddam's regime that make war on Iraqi people. Iraqis want the same things that you and I have -- court system based on rule of law and fundamental fairness and due process administered by honest judges.
Now even we in the U.S. cannot achieve that all the time, but Iraqis look to us as a shining example of to achieve that. That's not to say they are standing by and waiting for us to imprint an American system upon them. They are proud and independent and have a history before Saddam of a functioning judicial system.
We have taken that system and revitalized it without any necessity of trying to restamp it as a U.S. model.
Dalton, from East Lake
Have you retained Iraqi judges on the bench? Or are they all different? And
if you've retained some, what is their reaction to the new rights of Iraqi
citizens and the new protocol of the judicial process?
Iraqi judges are retained. The ones that are not retained are being eliminated becauseof their close ties to the Saddam Hussein regime or for reasons of corruption. They are not all different. Judges can still be effective and respected even though they had to survive under 35 years of thuggery. The judges that have been retained are very positive to being able to work in a rule of law based on fundamental fairness and due process. This iswhat people want, lawyers want and judges want. they never gave up these dreams despite of 35 years of thuggery.
More than 90 percent of the nation's courts are open and hearing cases. and so far about 300 criminal trials have been completed. Now, there are setbacks. Last week, two judges were assasinated. They were killed for the same reasons the terrorists that made war on all Iraqi people. Terrrorists and thugs simply want to roll back this new found freedom.
Thomas, from Germany writes:
Hi How can laws be installed that protect children from violence and abuse and
that will punish such adults who beat or abuse children in Iraque?
It is illegal under Iraqi law to harm children or to fail to pay child support. It is also specifically illegal to kill a newborn child out of shame. These laws must be enforced. At the same time, parents are permitted to discipline their children "within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom."
Michael, from Powell, TN
Would there be a combination of laws (West and Middle East) used in bringing
justice in the courts at Iraq?
Iraq has a robust criminal code, with many assurances of due process that all countries aspire to, whether in the Middle East, the West, or elsewhere. With certain modifications instituted by the Coalition to remove some provisions that conflicted with basic human rights, that code forms the basis for criminal justice in Iraq.
The problem under the former regime was that it ignored at its whim the safeguards and standards contained in the criminal code and criminal procedures. Iraq also is a party to many international human rights treaties reflecting universal values.
I have worked with good people trying to find their way to peace and prosperity while being made victims of war by terrorists and thugs. Tonight, I was invited to dinner with an Iraqi family who gave me every hospitality. The dinner was huge, and delicious. This man is not a rich man. He struggles on a policeman.s pay. I.ll find a way to return his family.s generosity. Iraqis want the same thing we want and they want a justice system to make that happen. As Judge Methat Hamoodi Hussein Al-Mahmood, the the Chief Justice of the Iraqi Supreme Court said, .Judicial independence means, first and foremost, the prevailing of the law that allows people to live with dignity and without fear of discrimination base on language, race, ethnicity, social class or political affiliation.. It has been a pleasure to be with you today and to take your question on Ask the White House. I look forward to doing this again some time. Thank you.