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Cablegate: Prt Kirkuk: Major Crimes Court Resumes Trying

VZCZCXYZ0384
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHC #0623/01 0630948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030948Z MAR 08
FM SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC
TO RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6016
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 000623

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KDEM SOCI IZ
SUBJECT: PRT KIRKUK: MAJOR CRIMES COURT RESUMES TRYING
TERRORIST AND OTHER FELONY CASES

1. (U) THIS IS A PRT KIRKUK REPORTING CABLE.

SUMMARY
-------

2. (U) THE KIRKUK MAJOR CRIMES COURT (MCC) RESUMED
OPERATIONS FEBRUARY 28 HEARING A SECOND DOCKET OF 42 CASES.
CREATED IN OCTOBER 2007, THE MCC HAS TRIED 26 CASES AND
CLEARED A TWO-YEAR BACKLOG OF MAJOR CRIMES CASES, INCLUDING
TERRORIST RELATED CASES. PREVIOUSLY, CASES WERE TRIED BY A
GROUP OF THREE TRAVELING JUDGES OUT OF THE CENTRAL CRIMINAL
COURT OF IRAQ (CCC-I) IN BAGHDAD. FOR THE SECOND SESSION,
THE KIRKUK MCC IS FULLY STAFFED BY THREE LOCAL JUDGES, ONE
PROSECUTOR, AND ONE PUBLIC DEFENDER. END SUMMARY.

MCC RESUMES OPERATIONS
----------------------

3. (U) ON FEBRUARY 28, THE KIRKUK MAJOR CRIMES COURT (MCC)
RESUMED ITS PROCEEDINGS WITH A DOCKET OF 42 CASES INVOLVING
54 DEFENDANTS. UNLIKE ITS FIRST SESSION WHICH BEGAN IN
OCTOBER 2007, THIS SECOND SESSION WILL BE TRIED EXCLUSIVELY
BY LOCAL JUDGES. ON FEBRUARY 28, THE COURT, COMPRISED OF A
LOCAL PANEL OF THREE JUDGES AND THE LOCAL PROSECUTOR, BEGAN
BY HEARING EIGHT INSURGENCY, TERRORISM AND MAJOR FELONY
CASES. JUDGES FOUND THE DEFENDANTS NOT GUILTY IN FIVE
TERRORISM CASES DUE TO INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. IN TWO CASES,
THE DEFENDANTS WERE FOUND GUILTY WITH ONE DEFENDANT RECEIVING
A 15-YEAR PRISON TERM FOR A WEAPONS AND EXPLOSIVES OFFENSES
CONVICTION AND THE OTHER A 20-YEAR PRISON TERM FOR EXTORTION.
ONE CASE WAS POSTPONED AND REFERRED FOR FURTHER
INVESTIGATION.

COURT'S SHORT HISTORY IS IMPRESSIVE
-----------------------------------

4. (U) FOLLOWING NINE MONTHS OF CLOSE COORDINATION BETWEEN
PRT KIRKUK RULE OF LAW TEAM MEMBERS AND NATIONAL AND
PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS, THE KIRKUK MCC OPENED IT DOORS ON
OCTOBER 4, 2007. ITS MISSION: TO TRY CASES RELATED TO
TERRORISM, INSURGENCY, AND MAJOR FELONIES, INCLUDING
CORRUPTION RELATED CASES. DURING THE FIRST SEVEN DAYS OF
OPERATION, A GROUP OF THREE JUDGES FROM THE BAGHDAD CENTRAL
CRIMINAL COURT OF IRAQ (CCC-I) TRIED 26 CASES (36
DEFENDANTS), RESULTING IN 23 CONVICTIONS AND ELEVEN
ACQUITTALS. AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST SESSION, THE MCC
MANAGED TO CLEAR A TWO-YEAR BACKLOG OF CASES IN THE KIRKUK
PROVINCE, WHERE NO TERRORIST OR INSURGENT CASES HAD BEEN
TRIED BETWEEN APRIL 2003 AND OCTOBER 2007.

5. (U) THE KIRKUK MCC IS ONE OF ONLY A HANDFUL OF COURTS
ALLOWED TO TRY MAJOR CRIMES CASES OUTSIDE OF BAGHDAD.
PREVIOUSLY, THE CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT OF IRAQ IN BAGHDAD
HEARD ALL TERRORIST AND INSURGENT CASES, RESULTING IN A MAJOR
BACKLOG OF CASES AND LENGTHY DELAYS IN CASE PROCESSING TIMES,
WITH DEFENDANTS SOMETIMES WAITING FOR MORE THAN TWO YEARS FOR
THEIR CASES TO BE HEARD. SINCE THE MCC'S INCEPTION, TOP
PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS HAVE REPEATEDLY CONVEYED HOW MUCH THEY
VALUE THE MCC AS AN IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT TO COMBAT TERRORISM,
INSURGENCY AND CORRUPTION WITHIN THE IRAQI LEGAL SYSTEM. THE
COURT IS FULLY STAFFED AND OPERATED BY IRAQIS AND FOLLOWS
IRAQI JURISPRUDENCE.

MCC JURISDICTION
----------------

6. (U) THE MCC FALLS UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE BAGHDAD
CCC-I - THE NATIONAL IRAQI COURT THAT HANDLES THE MOST
SERIOUS TERRORISM, INSURGENCY AND CORRUPTION CASES. THE MCC
HAS JURISDICTION TO TRY TERRORIST, INSURGENCY AND CORRUPTION
CASES THAT ORIGINATE IN KIRKUK PROVINCE. THE MCC WAS
ESTABLISHED BY A WRITTEN ORDER OF THE CHIEF JUDGE MEDHAT AL
MAHMOOD, THE PRESIDENT OF IRAQ'S HIGHER JUDICIAL COUNCIL
(HJC). THE HJC IS A SEPARATE AND INDEPENDENT BRANCH OF THE
GOI THAT ADMINISTERS ALL IRAQ'S COURTS AND JUDGES.

ADVANTAGES OF MCC OPERATIONS
----------------------------

7. (U) PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS TELL US THAT THERE ARE SEVERAL
ADVANTAGES TO HOLDING MCC PROCEEDINGS IN KIRKUK VERSUS
BAGHDAD INCLUDING A VAST REDUCTION IN THE EXPENSE AND THE
LEVEL OF DANGER OF TRANSPORTING PRISONERS TO BAGHDAD TO HAVE
THEIR CASES HEARD BEFORE THE CCC-I. PREVIOUSLY DUE TO
SECURITY CONCERNS, IRAQI POLICE RENTED UNMARKED VEHICLES FOR
THE LONG DRIVE FROM KIRKUK TO BAGHDAD. THE LENGTHY JOURNEY
ALSO PROVIDED GREATER OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRISONERS TO ESCAPE.
IN COMPARISON, THE MCC IS NOW LOCATED ON THE SECURE K-1 IRAQI
ARMY BASE, A FIFTEEN MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE CENTER OF THE CITY
OF KIRKUK.

IMPROVED COMMUNICATIONS ENCOURAGE CIVIC EDUCATION

--------------------------------------------- ----

8. (U) PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS ALSO SAY THAT PREVIOUS POOR
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE CCC-I AND KIRKUK'S COURTS AND IRAQI
POLICE CAUSED CONFUSION ABOUT TRIAL RESULTS, AND FRUSTRATED
KIRKUK RESIDENTS WHO WANTED TO KNOW THE OUTCOMES OF THE MOST
SERIOUS CASES. ALL PROCEEDINGS AT THE MCC ARE OPEN TO THE
PUBLIC WHO ARE NOW ABLE TO WITNESS FIRST-HAND THE WORKINGS OF
PROVINCIAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. ADDITIONALLY, KIRKUK
MEDIA NOW HAVE READY ACCESS TO MCC TRIAL RESULTS AND PUBLIC
HEARINGS, AND PUBLISH THE SENTENCES AND PUNISHMENTS FOR THE
RESIDENTS OF KIRKUK PROVINCE.

QUICKER PROCESSING HELPS SOLVES LENGTHY DETENTIONS
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (U) THE ARAB BLOC OF THE KIRKUK PROVINCIAL COUNCIL HAS
LONG COMPLAINED ABOUT LENGTHY DETENTIONS CAUSED BY THE
BACKLOG OF CASES IN THE CCC-I. THE MCC'S ABILITY TO PROCESS
CASES MORE RAPIDLY AND PROVIDE ACCURATE INFORMATION ON CASES
HAS BEEN WELL RECEIVED BY THE ARAB COMMUNITY.

STAFFING AND FACILITIES PROMOTE SECURITY
AND GREATER EFFICIENCY
----------------------------------------

10. (U) THE ORIGINAL TRAVELING MCC CONSISTED OF THREE
PERMANENTLY ASSIGNED ADMINISTRATIVE AND CLERICAL PERSONNEL.
THE MCC HAS A LOCAL PROSECUTOR, PUBLIC DEFENDER AND THREE
JUDGES. DURING SESSIONS, STAFF RESIDE ON THE COMPOUND IN
NEWLY BUILT LIVING QUARTERS. THE FOUR BUILDING COMPLEX
CONSISTS OF A FORMAL COURTROOM WITH FOUR ADJOINING OFFICES;
A SECURITY STATION SUFFICIENT FOR THE HOUSING AND OPERATIONS
OF THE JUDICIAL GUARD FORCE; A NEW DETENTION FACILITY WITH
EIGHT LARGE CELLS, CAPABLE OF SECURELY AND COMFORTABLY
HOLDING OVER FIFTY DETAINEES. THE FACILITY ALSO HAS TWO
ATTORNEY CONSULTATION ROOMS, WHERE DEFENSE COUNSEL CAN MEET
WITH THEIR CLIENTS; AND A FOUR-BEDROOM, SINGLE-STORY
DORMITORY-STYLE BUILDING WITH AN AMPLE LIVING ROOM AND DINING
ROOM. IRAQ'S CHIEF JUSTICE MEDHAT AL MAHMOOD RECENTLY TOLD
PRT OFFICIALS THAT HE HAD CHOSEN A PANEL OF LOCAL JUDGES FOR
KIRKUK'S MAJOR CRIMES COURT (MCC) BECAUSE THE SYSTEM OF
STAFFING IT WITH TRAVELING CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT OF IRAQ
(CCCI) JUDGES WAS NOT SUSTAINABLE IN THE LONG RUN DESPITE ITS
INITIAL SUCCESS IN KIRKUK.

COMMENT
-------

11. (U) THE KIRKUK MCC HAS GREATLY ADVANCED THE RULE OF LAW
IN KIRKUK PROVINCE BY ELIMINATING A TWO-YEAR BACKLOG OF
TERRORIST, INSURGENCY, AND CORRUPTION CASES. ANECDOTAL
EVIDENCE WE HAVE HEARD FROM PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT LEADERS,
SECURITY FORCES PERSONNEL, AND ORDINARY CITIZENS SUGGEST ITS
EFFECTIVENESS AND THAT IT HAS BEEN WELL-RECEIVED.
ADDITIONALLY, THE PRT HAS OBSERVED AN UNPRECEDENTED DEGREE OF
COOPERATION BETWEEN THE JUDICIARY, IRAQI POLICE, AND IRAQI
ARMY TO SUSTAIN MCC OPERATIONS. WHILE THE INITIAL NUMBERS OF
CASES TRIED BY PROVINCIAL JUDGES ON FEBRUARY 28 MAY APPEAR
MODEST, IT IS THE FIRST TIME LOCAL JUDGES HAVE SUCCESSFULLY
TRIED CASES AT THE MCC IN CLOSE COORDINATION WITH THE IRAQI
POLICE, IRAQI ARMY, CORRECTIONS AND THE DEFENSE BAR. U.S.
OPERATIONAL INVOLVEMENT WAS MINIMAL CONSISTING ONLY OF THE
PRT PROVIDING ADVICE AND MENTORSHIP. END COMMENT.
CROCKER

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