Iraqi High Tribunal المحكمة الجنائية العراقية العليا

Posted on | September 13, 2009

The Iraqi High Tribunal, also (more accurately) translated as the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Court is the body established to try Iraqi nationals or residents accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious crimes committed between 1968 and 2003.

The Tribunal’s predecessor was established pursuant to CPA Order 48, which delegated authority to the Iraqi Governing Council to set up a war crimes tribunal. The Iraqi Governing Council subsequently issued a Law on 10 December 2003 and the resulting tribunal was then known as the Iraqi Special Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity.

Its existence was preserved under Article 48 of the 2004 Transitional Administrative Law which stated:
(A) The statute establishing the Iraqi Special Tribunal issued on 10 December 2003 is confirmed. That statute exclusively defines its jurisdiction and procedures, notwithstanding the provisions of this Law.
(B) No other court shall have jurisdiction to examine cases within the competence of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, except to the extent provided by its founding statute.
(C) The judges of the Iraqi Special Tribunal shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of its founding statute.

By means of Law No. 10 of 2005 published in the Official Gazette, issue 4006 of 18 October 2005, the transitional government replaced the Iraqi Special Tribunal with the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Article 93 of the 2005 Constitution states that:
The establishment of special or extraordinary courts is prohibited.

The jurisdiction of the Court covers crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the period from 17 July 1968 to 1 May 2003.

Initially the Iraqi High Tribunal had issued its decisions in English and Arabic along with a small amount of background information on its website Unfortunately this website has not been updated and indeed has completely fallen into disuse – an attempt to go to the site is met with the disconcerting message “ is for sale”. There is nothing in Arabic post dating 5 July 2007 and nothing in English post dating March 2007. The last update to the website is still accessible using the Way Back Machine.

The Iraqi High Tribunal is not part of the federal court system which is administered by the Higher Judicial Council and it would appear that there is no plan to bring the judges and staff working at the Iraqi High Tribunal into the mainstream criminal justice system when their task is completed.

Case Western Reserve University’s ‘Grotian Moment’ International War Crimes Blog has an excellent section devoted to the Iraqi High Tribunal which contains commentary, indictments and charge documents related to some of the trials.

CPA Order 48
Iraqi Special Tribunal Statute 10 December 2003
Iraqi Special Tribunal Rules of Procedure
Iraqi High Tribunal Law No. 10 of 2005
Iraqi High Tribunal Rules of Procedure 2005

Dujail First Instance
Dujail Cassation
Anfal First Instance
Anfal Cassation

Summary of Decisions
Summary of Merchant’s case by Judge Ra’id Juhi – hosted on the Grotian Moment website at Case Western Reserve University

News Reports
Iraqi officials cleared of British troop murders, Reuters, 9 September 2009
Iraqi court issues warrant for anti-graft official, Reuters, 8 September 2009
Tariq Aziz, jailed for 15 years for crimes against humanity, The Times, 11 March 2009
Ali Hassan al-Majid sentenced to death for the fourth time, UPI 17 January 2010 (and other reports)
Ali Hasan Al Majid executed, BBC, 25 January 2010 (and other reports)
Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law: Lessons from the Saddam Trial Vol 39, Nos 1 & 2
Human Rights Watch, 22 June 2007, The Poisoned Chalice (also available in العربية)
Human Rights Watch, 19 November 2006, Judging Dujail (also available in العربية)