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Iraqi Judges, Lawyers Prepare for Special Tribunal - 2003-12-18

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says it has just finished training about 100 Iraqi judges and lawyers in some of what they will need to know to serve on the special tribunal being formed to handle alleged crimes committed by officials from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority says it has just finished a two-week seminar to prepare the Iraqi lawyers and judges to deal with cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The special tribunal was announced by the Iraqi Governing Council last week, but is likely to take several months to set up.

Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor says the judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors and law professors who attended the seminar will form at least part of the group from which the staff of the tribunal will be chosen.

"The seminar was designed to assist Iraqi jurists in the investigation and prosecution of alleged crimes committed by Iraq's former regime over the last 35 years," said Mr. Senor. "Seminar participants focused on the application of international legal standards to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."

Mr. Senor says the Iraqi governing council picked the participants for the workshop, and the Iraqi council of judges will select the people who will serve as judges, prosecutors and investigators for the special tribunal.

The workshop was conducted by legal experts from Iraq and from four of the coalition countries - Spain, Australia, Britain and the United States.

The Iraqi war crimes tribunal is designed to be staffed largely by Iraqi judges and lawyers, with some input from international observers and experts. A large number of international legal analysts, however, have called for a mixed tribunal, with both Iraqi and foreign judges. They fear that, after 35 years of repressive Ba'ath party rule, Iraq simply does not have enough independent jurists to handle the tribunal.

The coalition spokesman says it will be possible for the tribunal to request the participation of foreign judges, but he says the governing council and the coalition believe Iraq has the capacity to provide most of the staff.

The announcement of the end of the legal seminar coincided with an announcement that the coalition Judicial Review Committee has fired the chief judge and five other judges in the southern province of Karbala, after an investigation found that they were either corrupt or had significant ties to the Ba'ath party.