VI. The Role of International Advisors

The institutional design of the IHT makes the non-binding advice of international advisors the principal mechanism to address the underlying lack of capacity of the Iraqi legal system in respect of trying international crimes. The IHT Statute envisages advisors in each of the branches of the court—judicial, prosecutorial, and defense289 (but not the administration)—as an alternative to direct participation of international personnel. In reality, the RCLO has been the only source of international advisors to the investigative judges and the prosecution, and the RCLO has frequently been forced to step in and resolve gaps left by the poor administration of the court (such as witness protection and defense counsel security). As a result, the already significant role of the RCLO290 expanded to the oversight of key logistical and administrative requirements for the conduct of the Dujail trial. As one IHT judge put it, the RCLO functioned at times as the “executive authority” of the IHT.291

Apart from RCLO personnel, only two other individuals have been appointed as advisors to the court: one to the IHT trial chamber during the Dujail trial, and the other to the IHT Defense Office from April 2006. Both of these individuals have very significant experience and expertise in international criminal law and procedure, and do appear to have had some impact in preventing even more serious defects in the trial than those documented in this report. Ultimately, however, advisors have not been able to correct or prevent the significant fair trial concerns that arose over the course of the trial.292

A further concern with relying on advisors as the only mechanism for international expertise is the lack of transparency concerning the extent of the advisors’ role. As previously noted, the closing statements for the Defense Office lawyers in the Dujail trial (the privately retained defense lawyers then staging a boycott) were substantially written by the Defense Office international advisor. When some defendants made this claim in court, the presiding judge flatly denied it. The court’s false denial creates the unfortunate impression that the court is trying to hide or conceal the advisor’s role, and encourages the perception that the advisors “stage manage” the proceedings.

A direct and significant role by international personnel is to be welcomed and encouraged, but must be transparent. Advisors have proven a poor substitute for direct international involvement as co-counsel, judges, and administrators, such as occurs in the War Crimes Chamber for Bosnia-Herzegovina.293

The lack of other non-RCLO advisors can be attributed to several factors. The cost of maintaining an advisor (who stays at either the UK or US Embassy) runs between US$20,000 and $70,000 per month, and European governments other than the UK have not provided significant financial assistance to the IHT because of the likelihood that the court will apply the death penalty in its sentencing (all EU donor countries are abolitionist). Another factor appears to be the reluctance to be involved in what is perceived as a US-dominated process. Any international personnel directly assisting the IHT will be heavily dependent on the RCLO and the US military to facilitate their entry and exit from Iraq, and to provide logistical support (and potentially accommodation) while in Iraq. No entity with an arms-length relationship from both the US and Iraqi government currently serves as the practical vehicle for channeling, managing, and supporting potential international assistance to the IHT.294 Given the serious problems in the administration of the court, the IHT administration has no capacity to directly manage and support international advisors.295 Indeed, the then-president of the IHT generally declined to make written requests for further international advisors, even though as president he had primary responsibility for authorizing advisors to assist the court.296 Finally, the grave and deteriorating security conditions in Baghdad over the course of 2005 and 2006 have deterred potential international advisors.

289 See above, Section II, “Background.”

290 See Human Rights Watch, The Former Iraqi Government on Trial, p. 17.

291 Human Rights Watch interview with IHT judge, Baghdad, November 2005.

292 The advisor to the trial chamber has left the court and no replacement for him has yet been found, leaving the trial chamber in the Anfal trial currently without a non-RCLO international advisor.

293 International involvement in the War Crimes Chamber is subject to a planned phase-out over several years, to ensure both that sufficient expertise is available to conduct trials that meet international standards, and that local ownership is achieved over time. See Human Rights Watch, Looking for Justice, p. 7.

294 The International Bar Association was the nongovernmental organization that provided some training support to the IHT judges and facilitated the recruitment of the non-RCLO trial chamber advisor. However, the advisor, once recruited, depends on the US and UK Embassies for day-to-day support in Iraq.

295 This can be contrasted with the Registry of the War Crimes Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is “internationalized” through the appointment of experienced international staff persons as registrar and in other key posts such as witness protection and head of the defense office. The Registry oversees the recruitment and management of international staff, and is also the recipient of donor funds for the court as a whole. The international personnel of the Registry are then gradually phased out once the institution is able to function effectively and has gained the confidence of donors.

296 IHT Statute, arts. 7(2), 8(9), 9(7).