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Cablegate: Goi's Largest Detention Facility Gets Legal Clinic

VZCZCXYZ0023
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #1118/01 1010258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100258Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC//NSC// PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6782

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 001118

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/I
JUSTICE FOR JOHN EULER
NSC FOR BOB KITRINOS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KCRM KJUS PGOV PHUM IZ
SUBJECT: GOI'S LARGEST DETENTION FACILITY GETS LEGAL CLINIC

1. SUMMARY: A modest grant from the Ambassador's Targeted
Development Program fund has given the Iraqi Bar Association
(IBA) resources to operate a legal aid clinic at Baghdad's
largest detention center. Many of the detainees have been
held for years without charges or progress in their cases.
The IBA will use the grant to pay attorneys to represent
detainees, and to facilitate reintegration of detainees
released from detention. Reintegration services will likely
include assistance in obtaining identity and other
documentation, contacting family members, and assisting in
transportation to their respective homes from Baghdad. End
summary.

DETAINEE SURGE
--------------

2. Despite the passage of a general amnesty law by the
Council of Representatives on February 13, 2008 that was
meant to include both those already convicted and those
accused of certain crimes, the GOI's pre-trial detainee
population has remained at pre-amnesty levels. This is due
to the fact that while there have been 70 detainees that
appear to have been released due to the Amnesty Program, and
other releases that have occurred as part of normal trial
procedure, the number of intakes has kept pace with the
number of releases resulting in zero-net decrease of the
population in Rusafa. The most well-known, and largest, GOI
detention facility is at the Rusafa Rule of Law complex,
located on the edge of Baghdad's Sadr City.

3. The Rusafa complex is a GOI facility meant to house
approximately 2,300 pre-trial detainees. Because of the
large numbers of Iraqis detained before and during surge
operations in 2007, several temporary housing compounds were
added to the complex. With the addition of these temporary
facilities, the total bedspace capacity at Rusafa increased
to nearly 7,000. While the numbers of detainees fluctuate
slightly from day to day, nearly 6,500 detainees are
currently held at the Rusafa complex.

LAW IS NO GUARANTEE OF REPRESENTATION
-------------------------------------

4. Due to a lack of judicial capacity and other
institutional failures, the Iraqis have been unable to

process these detainees in a timely manner, and many of the
detainees at Rusafa have been held for years without any
change in their pre-trial status. A significant impediment
to efficient movement through the judiciary process is the
paucity of legal representation for the criminal detainees.
Although the right to representation is guaranteed by Iraq,s
constitution and CPA Memorandum Three, the courts do not
provide counsel to those detainees who cannot afford it.
Many of the detainees appear to have no resources, and
without the provision of court-appointed representation, the
possibility of finding an attorney willing to represent the
detainee on a pro bono basis is limited and unlikely. With
no advocate to press their case, these detainees at Rusafa )
and many others around the country ) languish for months or
years.

5. The right to representation has been guaranteed by Iraq's
constitution and reinforced by CPA Memorandum Three, since at
least the fall of Saddam. Many of the detainees appear to
have no resources, and without the provision of
court-appointed representation, the possibility of finding an
attorney willing to represent the detainee on a pro bono
basis is limited. With no advocate to press their case,
these detainees at Rusafa - and many others around the
country - languish for months or years.

LAWYERS' GROUP THE ANSWER?
--------------------------

6. In order to address the lack of experience in trial
defense work (both individual and institutional), a 900,000
dollar grant from the Ambassador's Targeted Development
Program (TDP) fund was awarded to establish a legal defense
clinic at the Rusafa complex. The Iraqi partner for this
project is the Iraqi Bar Association (IBA).

7. The IBA is a member-funded organization with over 40,000
eligible lawyers across the country. However, only about
10,000 lawyers are dues-paying members because of the
economic conditions in Iraq. Paid membership in the IBA is
mandatory in order to practice law in Iraq; however, the
courts are responsible for enforcement and presently do not
uniformly enforce this requirement.
8. The IBA enjoys a reputation as a secular organization,
with no overt affiliations with any sect or faction.
Approximately 15,000, or nearly 30 percent, of attorneys in
Iraq are unemployed. While the legal aid clinic at Rusafa is
not specifically designed as an employment program for
lawyers, the IBA plans to rotate lawyers through the clinic -
probably at 90 day intervals - which will have the effect of
putting more lawyers to work than a fixed group for the
entire period. (Note: While the President of the IBA, Mr.
Aswad Minshidi, originally had hopes of very high salaries
for a small number of attorneys for the legal aid clinic, the
final plan calls for up to 25 attorneys at a time, drawing a
combination of a base salary and a financial incentive for
each completed case file. It is our understanding that even
the base salaries are very attractive for the average Iraqi
attorney. End note.)

LONG ROAD AHEAD
---------------

9. Securing the release of a large number of detainees is not
the primary goal of the legal aid clinic. Instead, the
intent is to prod officials at Rusafa to take action on
individual detainee cases, resulting in either conviction or
dismissal of charges. The TDP grant to the IBA is structured
to provide bonuses for case resolution, not just for
representation or consultation.

10. According to data provided by Iraq's Higher Judicial
Council, nearly 5,000 of the detainees at Rusafa have applied
for amnesty under the GOI's amnesty statute. While nearly
half of the applications have been approved, it is our
understanding that only a handful -- mostly Shi,a -- has
been released. The IBA's legal aid clinic will likely
include an application for amnesty in case files for the
detainees, but will also continue to represent the detainees
even if the amnesty is denied.

11. The legal aid clinic's lawyers will provide reintegration
services in the event that individuals are released, whether
the release is through dismissal of charges, acquittal, or
through the amnesty program. That assistance will focus on
helping the former detainee safely reintegrate into society.
This may include assistance in obtaining identification
documents, letters to former employers explaining the
individual's situation and status, help in contacting family
members across Iraq, and arranging for transportation away
from the largely-Shi,a enclave where Rusafa is located.

COMMENT
-------

12. The Rusafa program is admittedly small, with modest
goals. The funding provided through the TDP should prove
adequate to provide legal representation and counsel for
approximately 5,000 of the Rusafa detainees under the present
circumstances (funding beyond that initial pool will require
a policy decision as to where the means will come from to
support the program - whether from USG or GOI sources).
Perhaps equally as important, it provides the IBA with the
resources to put a small number of Iraqi attorneys back to
work. Additionally, the legal clinic is an opportunity to
introduce elements of an adversarial legal system -
guaranteed by Iraq's constitution -- into the country's
traditionally-inquisitorial process. If the legal aid clinic
achieves any of those goals, it would be worth replicating
the Rusafa clinic in other locations around Iraq.
BUTENIS

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