Testing the Independence of the Iraqi Judiciary: The Batikh Case
Posted on 26 December 2011.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the authorís permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The attempt by the Iraqi judiciary to prosecute Vice President Tareq al*-Hashemi (Iraqiyya) for alleged involvement in terrorist offences has reopened the contentious debate about the true independence and neutrality of Iraqís judicial authorities.
So far, the actions and statements of the judiciary in the case of Hashemi do not inspire confidence. After initially issuing an arrest warrant for Hashemi, the judicial authorities subsequently seemed to renege somewhat by saying that the initial investigation had been done by a single judge and would be re-examined by a team of five judges. However, in a rather overt sign of interference with the judicial process, today there are reports that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is rushing to furnish the judiciary with additional evidence!

While the Hashemi case remains lingering, today the Iraqi supreme court has issued a final ruling on another case: The right of former minister of state Jamal al-Batikh of White Iraqiyya to revert to his parliamentary seat. Batikh was one among the several ministers who lost their jobs during the downsizing of the government last summer.
So far, the court has issued only a press release, not the ruling as such. The press release merely says the law on replacement of candidates was violated when Ammar al-Gharbawi of Iraqiyya was given the seat of Batikh in August 2011. However, this in itself is clarifying: Since Gharbawi like Batikh was from Wasit (he was the second candidate on the Iraqiyya list), the court has most likely decided that his affiliation to a different parliamentary bloc than Batikh must have constituted the transgression.