Iraq's Burgeoning Judiciary: Current Issues and the Best Way Forward

Justin Charles Roberts


Following the United States takeover of Iraq in 2003, the Department of Justice released an assessment of Iraq’s fractured judiciary. Corruption, public distrust of the courts, and other roadblocks provided a bleak outlook on the rebuilding of the Iraqi judiciary. Nevertheless, recent large-scale judicial reforms have been moderately successful, including the separation of executive and judicial power, guarantee of due process, and efforts to protect the system from corruption, bribery, and political pressure. Now, during a period of relative stability, the Iraqi government must focus the improvement of the judiciary on four major areas: judicial independence, the debate between transparency and national security, the ability to prosecute high-ranking officials, issues with Kurdish autonomy, and international assistance and training. While each of these issues is deeply complex, this research asserts that there are six crucial improvements that will best enhance the Iraqi judiciary going forward. These improvements include increased courthouse rehabilitation to provide security for judges, a policy of erring on the side of transparency instead of worry over national security, a focus on promoting judges by merit instead of removing them through review, the rolling back of the ministerial protection law, a movement toward the election of judges instead of appointment, and an initiative to educate the Iraqi people and judiciary on the rich history of Iraqi law, as Iraq was the birthplace of codified law. If these improvements begin to be implemented now, they will ensure solid and sustainable growth of the Iraqi society and economy in the long-term.


Iraq; Judiciary; Middle East; International Development

Full Text:



Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Jean and Alexander Heard Library System, and the Office of Innovation through Technology.