Public Prosecutor Law No. 159 of 1979

The Public Prosecutor Law No. 159 of 1979, published in the Official Gazette, issue 2746 of 17 December 1979, was one of a number of laws enacted under the only partly realised law reform project which emerged from the Legal System Reform Law No. 35 of 1977. This was an attempt to use “legislation . . . in the process of destruction of feudal, tribal and capitalist values which hinder the march of Revolution towards building up the socialist society”.

Article 1 of the Public Prosecutor Law as originally passed set out aims including “to defend the achievement of the revolution and maintain the assets of the state and the socialist sector; to support the socialist system; to avoid unreasonable delay of trials especially crimes that impede socialist transformations.” Stripped of these exhortations by Amendment Law No. 10 of 2006, the meat of the Public Prosecutor Law itself is a sensible and comprehensive regulation of the branch of the judiciary known as ‘public prosecutors’.

The term ‘public prosecutor’ rendered in English is somewhat misleading given the inquisitorial nature of the Iraqi criminal justice system and the fact that the public prosecutor’s role ranges much further than criminal law. A public prosecutor can be viewed as an ombudsman – overseeing the operation of diverse aspects of the legal system from prison inspection to divorce. In criminal cases the public prosecutor’s opinion must be sought before important decisions of investigative judges and the public prosecutor is present at the trial. During the trial, at first sight the public prosecutor might appear to be presenting the case ‘against’ the Defendant. However a good public prosecutor sees himself as presenting the case for justice and will frequently recommend the acquittal of the Defendant. A public prosecutor can bring the decision of the trial court to cassation including on the basis that the public prosecutor is of the view that the defendant should not have been convicted.