Lawyers in the Iraqi Kurdistan region objected to the recent amendment to the bar association law, introduced by the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament. This amendment allows foreign lawyers to practice their profession in the region, especially those specializing in rare fields, such as the oil and gas sector and the investment sector.
During its ordinary session held on May 21, the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s parliament ratified Article 3 of the proposed draft amendment to the bar association law, and added subparagraph 3 to Article 19, paragraph 1, allowing foreign lawyers to practice law in the Kurdistan region according to the principles set forth by the law. After MPs deliberated among themselves and listened to one another’s opinions, the article was voted on and obtained the majority of votes (according to a statement issued by parliament).
The amendments proposed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) came following the economic boom witnessed in the region, especially in the oil and gas sector. There are dozens of foreign companies operating in this sector, not to mention the existence of investments estimated at more than $26 billion at the end of 2012, according to the statistics issued by Kurdistan Board of Investment. Moreover, the statistics issued by KRG Ministry of Trade and Industry indicate that there are more than 2,250 foreign companies operating in the region.
Attorney Dara Hussein Rwandouzi said that the amendment represented a harmful blow to lawyers in the region and harmed their credibility. He blamed the region’s bar association for approving such an amendment.
Rwandouzi told Al-Monitor: “This paragraph, which was added to the law, was not included in the recommendations approved by our last conference held last year, and it was not subject to referendum. It was ratified by the parliament without the knowledge of any lawyers in the region.”
Rwandouzi noted that there are around 6,000 lawyers in the region and new graduates cause this number to increase every year. He warned that this high number will become a major burden on the government if foreign lawyers were allowed to practice their profession in the region, as this will cause unemployment among Kurdish lawyers.
Rwandouzi confirmed that the “KRG requested this amendment under the pretext that there is a lack of experienced lawyers in the region. We consider this an insult, as Kurdish lawyers have pleaded before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal.”