Iraqi Legal System: A Work in Progress

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The Washington Post today profiles the “incomplete effort to resurrect the Iraqi legal system,” where authority is still divided between the U.S. military and Iraqi police and judges.

More than 300 courts are open and hearing cases, according to a spokesman for the occupation authority. But U.S. military officials still have a say. Sometimes they get involved in a case when they shouldn’t, said Maj. Bernard Bercik, 46, an Army Reserve lawyer with the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade who worked with the Iraqi judges and military police at the Karbala station.

For example, Iraqi police run the Karbala jail, but the U.S. military police oversee its operation. The soldiers came to Bercik at one point to ask about releasing a woman who had been charged as an accessory to rape. She had a small child with her in the filthy jail. Bercik said he made a hasty decision to release her, and the woman never showed up at the station again, as she had promised.


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