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Long-Term Iraqi Stability Requires Rule of Law, Officials Say

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2007 – Security progress in Baghdad requires more than military success; it also requires advances in Iraq’s institutions, including its criminal justice system, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today.

“We can and will win every battle, but we cannot win the peace alone,” Navy Adm. Mark Fox said during a media roundtable in Baghdad. “Even-handed justice is an essential part of every democratic society.”

After decades under Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime, “the Iraqi government is creating an independent judicial system to ensure that the rule of law applies to everyone,” he said.

James Santelle, Justice attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, joined Fox in sharing perceptions after a visit yesterday to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq and speaking about steps under way to continue advances being made.

“Rule of law is a critically important part of the united Iraqi-coalition force effort to preserve the peace and to ensure the safety and security for all Iraqis,” Santelle said.

Rule of law requires confidence in the institutions of government, provincial and city governments, elected officials and police. That is a tall order, Santelle acknowledged, because Saddam’s brutal police force left widespread, lingering fear and distrust.

As they look toward the future, the Iraqi government and coalition are focusing on what Santelle called the three touchstones of a good rule of law operation: courts, prisons and police.

He said his visit to the Central Criminal Court gave him optimism that it’s possible to break beyond past wrongs.

“If there is any illustration of rule of law in operation here today in Iraq, it is just that,” he said, citing the CCCI’s operations and its combined staff of police, law enforcement agents and officers, judicial officers, and corrections officers. All are working together in Baghdad and other Iraqi providences to ensure rule of law is promoted, he said.

Santelle cited the facts that crimes are being investigated fairly and that courageous judges are hearing evidence of crimes as examples of positive strides.

“That is a reflection of a civilized society,” he said. “That is a reflection of a rule-of-law operation that does, in fact, work.”

Joint training programs are ensuring that the principles of rule of law go to all levels of the criminal justice system, and new courthouses and other facilities are being built or renovated to support this system, he said.

As these efforts take shape, Santelle said he’s been impressed by the many courageous Iraqi leaders -- judges, prison officials, police officers, non-governmental organizations and entities among them --pursuing rule-of-law principles while operating in the midst of violence.

“That is a sign of tremendous promise and future for this country … (that) speaks well, not only for the present generation, but also those to come,” he said.

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