Stronger forensic services: Iraq and UAE exchange forensic experience and knowledge
Forensic evidence has an immense value in aiding criminal investigators, the police, and prosecutors, in bringing criminals to justice and solving crimes. In illicit trafficking and organized crime cases, forensic investigation can play a crucial role in providing and analyzing evidence for the adjudication of cases.
For example, when suspicious powder or pills are seized from a certain crime scene, it is up to the forensic services in the laboratory to identify the composition of these substances and whether it is indeed a prohibited narcotic, not only that, but forensic services can also link these substances to other criminal cases, track its sources and where it was manufactured, thereby helping authorities in capturing major criminal networks and not only the low-level dealers and users.
Considering the international component of illicit trafficking and organized crime and the continuous adaptability of methods criminal use to avoid detection, regional and international cooperation are key for an effective intervention. The need for knowledge exchange and cooperation between law-enforcement authorities in the region is crucial to tackle the issue in a comprehensive manner.
To counter that, Iraqi authorities have been enhancing their response and partnering with UNODC to enhance their capacities. As part of the project "Strengthening the Capacities of Iraqi Law Enforcement and Criminal Investigation Services (2020-2023)," funded by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), UNODC organized a study tour for nine Iraqi forensic experts to the Emirati forensic services. The Iraqi team was made of crime scene and narcotics forensic experts part of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Some of the study tour's foreseen short-term and long-term achievements include the development of recommendations by the Iraqi delegation based on the outcome of the visit, the creation of a forensic networking channel focused on tackling criminal networks related to narcotics and psychotropic substances and the establishment of cooperation mechanisms for forensic intelligence and information exchange.
The tour was hosted by the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology (GD-FRC) in Dubai, as this institution was previously noted by the Iraqi forensic services as one of the most significant key partners they envision collaborating with on the issue of countering illicit trafficking.
The Iraqi delegation, represented by Major-General Raheem Hashim Mohammed, thanked UNODC and UAE for their efforts and noted that the "UAE and Iraq have a lot of mutual similarities and a shared vision for the future. Developing a strong expertise in forensics is crucial for our security forces to be able to face challenges that target our nation."
During the 4-day study tour, Iraqi participants exchanged experiences through case studies with their Emirati counterparts. Moreover, they were also able to visit specialized and relevant sections/departments of the GD-FRC.
As the senior pharmacist manager of the laboratories in the Iraqi Medical Legal Directorate (MLD), Dr. Zeinab Kareem Jaafar added that the scientific expertise does exist in Iraq, but the advanced equipment is missing as well as proper SOPs.
Dr. Jaafar highlighted that "Drugs' forensics is a broad field and not a routine one. It is not exclusive to men or women, in my opinion, but I believe women can have a better ability for investigative work. As a matter of fact, in the MLD we have a lot of women in leadership positions as heads of departments."
In the final day, recommendations were developed by both the Iraqi delegation from the Ministries of Interior and Health regarding key steps for improving their forensics services, as well as possible future channels of exchange of knowledge and experience in forensic services between Iraq and the UAE.
Mr. Raheem affirmed that "Crime is rapidly advancing. We should aim to develop forensics and use new techniques and equipment that are important to analyze forensic evidence. Developing our capacities will be beneficial to the whole country. This visit is the main foundation for building a future for forensic services in Iraq, I'm confident this will enable us to counter illicit trafficking and organized crime more effectively."