The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The televised confession, often taped less than 48 hours after the detention of a suspect, has become something of a gold standard in Iraqi judicial procedure in the post-2003 era.
In many ways, this way of presenting the evidence of the prosecution is a sorry sight. At similar instances in the past, accusations of torture and forced confessions have been rampant. The theatrical nature of these videos and the conspicuous timing of their appearance certainly do not instil confidence about due process and the independence of the judiciary vis-à-vis the political environment.
Hopefully, any case against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi – who yesterday evening was formally accused of having abetted terrorism through his office – will be judged on its own merits. Before rushing to conclusions, it might perhaps also be useful to recollect a criminal case involving the security detail of another past vice president, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, back in 2009. Despite the serious nature of the charges against one of his employees (a bank robbery with alleged political motivations), Abd al-Mahdi eventually emerged unscathed from the whole affair.
Given the symbolic timing of the arrest warrant just days after the US withdrawal from Iraq, it is hard to ignore accusations that there are political dimensions to the case. The reputation of the Iraqi judiciary is already in tatters after a series of rulings of a rather blunt pro-Maliki character. On the whole, the atmosphere seems reminiscent of the arbitrariness and outright terror that characterised the pre-election de-Baathification process in early 2010 – except perhaps that the targeted politician in this case is someone with a Sunni Islamist rather than a Baathist past. Sunnis and secularists must begin wondering whether they can all be the next target in a politicised campaign.