Our story from inside Baghdad’s anti-terrorism court where we found Iraqi and foreign ISIS suspects being sentenced to death in trials that take minutes and lack due process, potentially ensnaring innocents.
Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim (WASHINGTON POST via STARS AND STRIPES) reported:
The two Turkish men shuffled into the courtroom, their closely cropped hair, clean shaven faces and chubby waistlines hardly the look of fearsome fighters of the Islamic State.
Appearing in court for the first time since being arrested in August on charges of belonging to that group, they professed their innocence, telling the judge they were simply plumbers who migrated to Iraq from Turkey looking for work.
After an 18-minute trial, they were sentenced to death by hanging.
Justice is a concept that still hasn't quite taken in 'liberated' Iraq. As Hoshang Mohamed (RUDAW) explains:
Transitional justice initiatives since 2003 have been problematic in Iraq. Such initiatives have been used as tools to repress political opponents instead of ending impunity and ensuring justice. Therefore, people have lost trust in the existing justice system.
Where we stand today, in the aftermath of ISIS, victims may not share the political elite’s perceptions of justice. The understanding of justice varies across communities, each giving different priority to social justice, punitive justice, and restorative justice. While victims may have experienced similar violations, their perspectives on gender reflect factors like beliefs, gender, socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, and religion.
The current context requires a comprehensive study to construct a detailed understanding of the political dynamics of relevance to restore justice and end impunity. This requires an in-depth understanding of the crimes committed, the role of different perpetrators, the impact of the crimes on the victims and society, and the needs, demands and priorities of the victims and their communities.
Development of a new national policy is critically required to ensure accountable, transparent, and reliable justice and increase the capacity of the state to effectively deal with complex crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
THE WASHINGTON POST's Tamer El-Ghobashy appeared on this weekend's THE NEWSHOUR (PBS):
ALISON STEWART: Earlier this month, the Iraqi government declared the end of combat operations in the fight against ISIS, ending three years of the militant group’s violent and deadly control over one third of the nation. And as the Washington Post reports this week, the Iraqi government is now undertaking an effort to quickly bring ISIS members to justice. But just how the process is moving forward and who’s being caught up in it is raising questions for an explanation. I’m joined via Skype from Ontario by Tamer El-Ghobashy, the Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post. I understand you’ve just returned from Iraq. So when you were there tell me who is being arrested? What are they being charged for? And what is the process like?
TAMER EL-GHOBASHY: What we’re seeing is that there are thousands of people – both local Iraqis and foreigners – who came to join ISIS in Iraq who are being arrested and are now coursing through the Iraqi criminal justice system. They’re all being charged under the Iraqi anti-terrorism law which was passed in 2005 and has a very, very broad definition. Whether they raised arms and fought for the group or whether they cooked for fighters in the group or treated them as doctors or otherwise is irrelevant. Under Iraqi law, the idea that you joined ISIS or a similar group like Al-Qaeda means that you are subject to either life in prison or the death penalty.
ALISON STEWART: How long do these trials last? Is there anything that could be done to change the way this process is going forward?
TAMER EL-GHOBASHY: The U.N. has suggested that Iraq doesn’t have the infrastructure in its legal system to handle these cases saying that most of ISIS’s crimes were crimes against humanity and war crimes and should be handled by an International Criminal Court for Justice. But so far there is no momentum. In fact, it seems that from the very top of the Iraqi leadership structure, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has authorized that these trials be expedited in order to to see justice served for the victims of ISIS.
ALISON STEWART: Tamer how might these quick trials and these executions affect Iraq’s stability?
TAMER EL-GHOBASHY: From a domestic point of view the idea is that these quick executions could result in a quite large number of innocent people being condemned to death. And one of the popular kind of conventional wisdom in Iraq and elsewhere is that the reason ISIS flourished in Iraq is because Sunnis felt disenfranchised and ignored by the majority Shia central government. So there might be a risk of further alienating Sunnis who feel like they were victims of ISIS and then were victimized once again by the Iraqi criminal justice system, which again, does not appear equipped to or willing to allow people a fair trial to defend themselves against the charge of joining the group.
All those years of 'helping' and the Iraqi justice system is no where near 'fixed.' But maybe that was never really the point?
In other realities, Richard Sisk (MILITARY TIMES) reports, "U.S.-backed forces were in the process of 'crushing the life' out of ISIS but 'the war is not over' in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday."
The following community sites -- plus BLACK AGENDAY REPORT and Cindy Sheehan -- updated: