Can the judiciary save Iraq's future?

Iraq cannot get out of the post-2003 maze unless the legal system is protected from the effects of political competition that wants to marginalize the vital role of this establishment.

The spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council in Iraq, Abdul Sattar Bayrakdar, has recently revealed that there are high pressures exercised by different political leaders on this establishment to acquit some parliamentarians and politicians accused of corruption. This, for sure, will put the prestige of the rule of law in Iraq at stake.

Therefore, this article alleges that Iraq cannot get out of the post-2003 maze unless the legal system is protected from the effects of political competition that wants to marginalize the vital role of this establishment. Otherwise, the Judiciary system will lose its ethical role in our society, and the consequences of this matter will be in favour of the actors trying to control the state.

In the new Iraq, corruption has become a noticeable phenomenon in the diverse governmental sectors. Thus, the Corruption Index, annually prepared by Transparency International organization (TIO), selected Iraq to be among the list of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2019. 

In her message to the public opinion, Delia Ferreira Rubio, the chair of TIO, said that "corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage."

Political exploitation always aims to create various types of corruption through which non-democratic players attempt to work for subjecting the state to their will and projects. This is what has been taking place in Iraq for decades. 

On TV channels and social media, there are accusations presented from political sides to target the judiciary saying that corruption cases are now being politicized for revenge of some politicians. This neither means that the judiciary is completely fair nor does it affirm that such politicians are not guilty. 

In return, all Iraqis welcome any effort exerted by any team, whether political or statutory one, to reform this establishment provided that this will not be a part of the political game to control it.  

Judges must now work on embarrassing such politicians by demanding them to submit the documents proving their allegations. This might be a good example for the Iraqi groups to consolidate their confidence in this institution. The judiciary will have to verify that it has an actual ability to deal with truths to amend its behave and to defend its function deeply respected by people.

The struggle of such crooked politicians to extend this destructive task to the judiciary arena means that the idea of the state will be fully ended. Nobody will get benefits from this scenario but those politicians who will strongly stand against any concrete moves to reshape the state through the creative interaction between people and the judiciary itself.  

When corruption spreads in rich countries, it develops patterns different than the other models existing in poor nations. In Iraq, the state having a geographically important location and several geopolitical elements of power like oil, this sort of corruption is deemed the most dangerous as it puts the country’s fortune on the edge. 

This nation deserves another fate through investing in these resources; to be one of the developed countries in the Middle East. Law and judiciary constitute the first and most important front to defend this destiny. 

Hence, we can say that dragging the law system into the political disagreements we are noticing among parties means that the Iraqi state is heading hastily towards a dark tunnel that does not have a seen end.  

For instance, numerous political parties do not like to give the judiciary system any chance to take its part in the process of following the money used in the electoral campaigns. In return, we find that Iraqi society and the protest movements are calling for the necessity of judiciary participation in these matters. It can monitor and chase the financial assets of such politicians to guaranty the integrity of the election.

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, the top Shiite clergyman in Najaf city, has many times announced that the next election must be away from the influence of the political money. It is an effective call for regenerating the arena where society and the judiciary meet to prevent corrupt politicians from the fraud of elections.

Presently, Iraqis are betting on this dream they think that it will save the Iraqi state from drowning. The Iraqi judiciary has the lawful means through which it can reshape the track of the state and the nature of socio-political interaction occurring in it. Hence, those, who do not want Iraq to revive, are doing every possible thing to damage the judiciary’s reputation. 

The Iraqi judiciary must benefit from this moment in which the protests have resulted in consolidating its ability to open the files of the corrupt politicians. There is strong support from the demonstrations to such a decision. 

Bringing them to the trial is not an easy mission. However, the events of the October revolution had paved the way to producing a special court to investigate with the most corrupt figures. Though such corrupt politicians are looking forward to aborting this plan, the other politicians, especially the youth, must activate it realistically.

After the end of the war against the Islamic State group, Iraqis thought that the time would come for the next challenge: "the fight for improving the judiciary, containing the corruption, and restoring the state."

Till now, our society feels that it will have to do more things to achieve this sacred aim. Accordingly, if the judiciary is implicated in any political conflict among partisan sides, it will disappoint people's convictions in the change they waiting for. 

In his governmental program, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi referred to fighting corruption. It was a great message that might strengthen the Iraqi hopes of backing the judiciary system. It is the most urgent accomplishment that Iraqis would focus on before determining their final stance of his rule.


Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic working at al-Mustansiriyah university. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Geography from the University of Baghdad and a Post-Doctorate in International Relations from the University of Warsaw. His research focuses on geopolitical issues in Iraq. He tweets at @DiyariFaily