International Justice Organization recap: Matthew Robinson’s remarks

Editorial | Republic Underground 

February 14, 2021 

“Thank you so much, and thank you to the organizers for putting together such an eclectic mix of speakers and experts across different areas of expertise and time zones. I will be joining you from the very north coast of Northern Ireland, on what is a wet and cold evening here,” said Robinson.

Prior to my time as the director of the Euro-Gulf Information Center in Rome, I served as a legislative and political advisor to the British Conservative Party’s delegation in the European Parliament. Five of those years I served as chief of staff and principal advisor to the chairman of the delegations for relations with Iraq. I pulled together my legal expertise in constitutional work and my own political work for the party. From my expertise in that area, I will focus my allotted time to focus on Iraq for the purpose of this discussion.”

Robison stated that Iraq has entered a new phase in fighting against the Islamic State.

“The time has come for the government to seize the opportunity to focus on protecting Iraqis basic rights in bringing Iraq’s laws in line with international standards and in line with the standards of some of their neighbors.”

He stated that the Iraqi government had the opportunity to address and focus on robust legislative reforms and proposals with the formation of Iraq’s new government last year. He noted that Iraqi law has not yet been brought up to speed or been seized with the type of urgency that is needed to fully address the proposed ideals and reforms that have been submitted.

He noted that Iraqi citizens have the right to hire an attorney or have one appointed by the government, which is allowed in the Iraqi constitution. He emphasized that detainees and lawyers have reported for years that the authorities have not allowed lawyers to be present during interrogations, which is unacceptable.

“The amendments would require all facilities citing detainees and courthouses to provide adequate space to allow for consultation with lawyers, including private rooms. The amendments proposed would require authorities to allow lawyers to be present for traditional investigative functions, to review all related documents, and to be alerted in advance about upcoming procedures in a case. It would prohibit interrogation of a suspect unless they are accompanied by a lawyer, and nullify any interrogation in which that did not happen.

The amendments include sanctions for authorities who interfere with lawyers rights and professional duties, and order the authorities if any criminal complaint is filed against a lawyer.”

He stated that the delay of the parliamentary hearing of these bills is no longer acceptable. He also detailed that, in addition to a review of lawyer and client rights, the review of anti-torture laws is not on the table. He stated that the new proposals would require the dismal of the party that allegedly uses torture during torture.

He likewise highlighted new proposals regarding enforced disappearance and laws that would formally criminalize this. He noted that Iraq has one of the highest rates of missing person cases in the world, and a number of them are enforced disappearance. He highlighted the most recent case of enforced disappearances of protest participants in protest movements in October 2019.

“Countless Iraqis are calling for the Parliament and government to take action on that bill. The new government should use this opportunity to resubmit it to Parliament for swift review, and lobby for swift passage of the legislation.”

He then stated that the Iraqi Prime Minister committed on May 9 to investigate the killings of over 600 protestors since October 2019. He noted that it was important that the government should, as part of the investigation, identify and make public those who engaged in and coordinated these killings, and hold these people responsible. He stated that the government should move to compensate the victims of killings.

Next, he focused his remarks on the bills that have been pending regarding anti-domestic violence. This bill has been pending since 2015 and includes measures to combat domestic violence. He noted that these provisions are more urgent given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, which confines many families to their residences, which is a situation of domestic violence that would be conducive to prolonged proximity.

He also highlighted the issues of prison overcrowding, and how the government had issued some releases. He noted the prime importance of establishing the criteria for releases. He likewise stated that the overcrowding of prisons creates a complication in Iraq’s current prison system because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as overcrowding has happened in overcrowded conditions. The criteria for release is in question, but he noted that in Iraq’s current prison system.

Then, he turned his remarks to highlight the importance urgent government reform to address government corruption, the Iranian influence, and budget uses.

“Of course, the elephant in the room is to address the victims of Daesh in the region, and ensure proper legal accountability of their crimes,” said Robinson.

He then raised the question of the curation of investigative teams to promote accountability for crimes committed by Daesh could be turned into something workable. He emphasized that the Iraqi Parliament must reform its criminal legal system to achieve justice for Daesh victims, more broadly for women and girls. The Iraqi legal system is currently not codified to address the sexual crimes of Daesh that include rape with objects, forced marriage, as well as gender-motivated tortured. These crimes, he noted would go sadly unpunished under the current system.

He also noted that international atrocity crimes of genocide and war crimes.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to applaud the work of a good friend and former colleague William Spencer done through his work at the organization the Institute for International Law and Human Rights. He has done sterling lobby work off Iraqi judges and the Iraqi justice system in this area.

In closing, I don’t wish to take up any more precious time, I would say that security has rightly dominated the legislative and government agenda in Iraq over the past decade. That has, of course, been proper and correct considering the Iraq war and the atrocious crimes committed by ISIS in this area. However, this new government must now take action and it must now be the basic rights of all Iraqis that must take priority and only an urgent form of the Iraqi legal system that can see this realized.”

He concluded his arguments by stating that there was good reason for optimism, as there is a good raft of sound bills and proposals with which to work. He stated now that an initiative was to see these many bills come to fruition.