A new legal help desk in Baghdad’s Rusafa Courthouse was inaugurated after Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council (HJC) partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Iraqi non-governmental organisation Dar Al Khibra to provide free legal services to indigent Iraqi citizens as part of a larger effort to strengthen the administration of and citizens’ access to justice in the country.
The establishment of legal help desks is derived from Iraqi law, which stipulates that citizens without means to acquire legal counsel have the right to representation and assistance. However, as Dr. Zyad Saeed, a Rule of Law officer with UNDP noted:
“One of the biggest obstacles to protecting human rights in Iraq is that citizens, particularly the most vulnerable groups, are not aware of how to fully obtain their rights and protections afforded by Iraqi law.”
The Rusafa Help Desk represents the first programme of its kind to service Baghdad and central Iraq. To build a culture of rights, the Help Desk relies on community activism to ensure that citizens are made aware of their rights and that claims are resolved more efficiently.
His Excellency Medhat al Mahmoud, Iraqi Chief Justice, said:
“Our collective efforts aim to enhance the state of human rights in Iraq by improving access to justice and legal aid mechanisms ... To achieve this, we look forward to partnering with communities and civil society organisations. This project is only a first step which constitutes a cornerstone for further support and replication nationwide.”