UNDP is helping to strengthen criminal defence in Iraq

Participants emphasized the need to change procedural rules and practices in Iraq to strengthen the rights of the defence to protect the innocent and wrongly charged defendants, and to build trust in the justice system. Photo: Dhuha Juhaishi/UNDP Iraq/2017

Baghdad- On 25 November 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a seminar and workshop in Baghdad for 30 senior criminal defence lawyers of the Iraqi Bar Association. Operating since 1933, the Iraqi Bar Association is a well-established organization with around 107,000 members. 

The Government of Iraq’s international commitments pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to enable effective criminal defence and recognized best defence practices were reviewed. Essential rights for a criminal defendant include his right to a defence counsel during police custody; access for defence counselto prosecution files to enable meaningful preparation of defence; and, the right of the defence to have witnesses called to be heard in the main trial. 

UNDP’s Rule of Law programme Criminal Justice Advisor, Mr. Andreas Kirsch-Wood, stressed: “A robust defence from the moment of arrest of a suspect and scrutiny by the defence of all evidence used by the court for determining its verdict is a prerequisite for a fair trial.” 

Participants discussed the shortcomings the defence faces in the Iraqi criminal justice system. Defence lawyers mentioned cases of incommunicado detention of their clients, denied access to detainees, denied access to examine records used by the courts to determine guilt or innocence of accused, the right denied to question evidence presented in court, and cases of intimidations, including arrests, of defence lawyers for conducting defence work. The defence lawyers emphasized the need to change procedural rules and practices in Iraq to strengthen the rights of the defence to protect the innocent and wrongly charged defendants, and to build trust in the justice system. The lawyers underlined that a criminal justice system that leaves only limited space to the defence cannot develop the necessary reliability and recognition.

UNDP supports a comprehensive programme on security sector reform in Iraq. UNDP collaborates with all main stakeholders, including the Bar Association of Iraq.

Contact

Chamila Hemmathagama, Programme Manager, Rule of Law, (m) +964 751 184 3529

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