Bremer: 'Future of Hope' in Iraq Includes Justice
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2003 Justice is part of the "future of hope" in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator told the Iraqi people in his weekly broadcast address from Baghdad today.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III said "the quest for justice takes on a special importance and urgency" in a country such as Iraq, which has known "much injustice."
Noting that justice -- not vengeance -- is the aim, Bremer said Iraqi courts are operating with judges independent of both the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council.
Bremer outlined recent and pending cases before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq to demonstrate that Iraqi justice is alive and well.
Bremer said that before Iraq was liberated, some people would sell Iraqi oil outside the country a practice that was illegal, but not a problem for people who were friends of the regime. "Justice was for the special few, not the common man," he said. "Those days are over."
Coalition naval forces, Bremer told the Iraqi people, captured the merchant vessel Navstar with 3,500 tons of fuel aboard destined for sale in another country. The forces turned the ship's captain and first mate over to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, which found them guilty. The fuel became the property of the Iraqi government, and the men are serving seven-year prison sentences that will stretch out to 10 years, Bremer said, if they cannot pay substantial fines levied by the court.
The court sentenced Abu Munim, the former governor of Najaf, to 14 years in prison for illegal imprisonment, corruption and destruction of government documents. "He was financially corrupt. He destroyed official documents in order to conceal his other crimes," Bremer said.
The ambassador also told of three men arrested in a truck with Red Crescent markings -- the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross -- pretending to deliver relief supplies. "But the truck had nothing to do with relief supplies," Bremer said. "It contained 500 rocket-propelled grenades. These three now face charges that could put them in prison for many years."
A dozen men facing trial for the April murders of Shia cleric Majid Al Khoei and two others will come before the central court in the weeks to come, Bremer said, facing possible life imprisonment.
"The Central Criminal Court of Iraq brings justice," Bremer said, and he noted it's not the only source of justice in the country, which has more than 600 judges presiding over some 500 Iraqi courts.
More than 300 cases have been tried "since the flight of the evil one," Bremer told the Iraqi people, referring to Saddam Hussein's fall from power. And Bremer said the pace is picking up. "You know, as do we all, that much work remains as you construct your future of hope," he noted. "But in the quest for justice, as with electricity and many other things, there is real progress."
Bremer said the progress will continue, but acknowledged it won't always be easy. "There will be difficulties, because those who do not share your future of hope try every day to prevent progress," he said. "Some days they may slow progress, may even inflict setbacks. But they fight against your future of hope, and they will fail.
"You, the millions and millions of Iraqis who want honest, open elections who want real justice will succeed," he continued. "And the evildoers will face justice in honest and fair Iraqi courts, with honest and fair Iraqi judges. And your future of hope is full of justice."