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Expatriate Iraqi Jurists  Ask for Concrete Steps to End Lawlessness in Iraq - 2003-05-16

A group of expatriate Iraqi lawyers and judges is calling for a quick end to the chaos in Iraq and the re-establishment of the rule of law.

Moniem Al-Khatib of the British-based Iraqi Jurists' Association says the international community and the U.S.- and British-led coalition must take concrete steps to stop the lawlessness that has followed the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

"It is a natural reaction after a strong iron fist and terrible brutal dictatorship, once they disappear, it is natural that the reaction will be chaotic, said Moniem Al-Khatib. "So, the sooner this chaos is stopped, the better for the country. And this is why we are here; we are trying our best to re-establish the rule of law."

The Iraqi Jurists' Association is an independent organization of about 80 lawyers and judges living outside Iraq.

Last July, the organization joined forces with a group created by the U.S. State Department to work on a transitional justice system for a post-Saddam Hussein era.

Now, the organization has released its proposals in New York in a 700-page report. The report highlights reforms of the criminal code and procedure. It also recommends sweeping changes to the judiciary and the police.

The Iraqi Jurists' Association recommends eliminating remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, which dominated all aspects of life. The lawyers deplore mob violence and call for a Truth and Reconciliation process, similar to one created in South Africa after apartheid.

Iraqi-American attorney Sermid al-Sarraf said Iraqis have the capability and the jurisdiction under international law to prosecute the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein's government themselves.

"All of the crimes committed in Iraq should be prosecuted in Iraq by Iraqi jurists in Iraqi courts," said Mr. al-Sarraf. "We believe that to establish the rule of law in Iraq, the Iraqi public must have confidence in its judiciary, and once an independent judiciary is created, it must have the full authority to prosecute the crimes that occurred by Iraqi perpetrators against Iraqi victims on Iraqi soil."

The Iraqi Jurists' Association has also distributed its report in Baghdad. After releasing its recommendations in New York and meeting officials at the United Nations, the lawyers say they will take their ideas to Washington next week.