Ed. Note: Baghdad Dispatch is now written by two female Marines with local connections; Marine Capt. Mary Noyes, an attorney; and Marine Maj. Meredith Brown, an Iraqi Women’s Engagement officer. Their respective columns will appear in alternate months. Noyes moved to New Orleans in 2006; Brown is a native of Marrero.
Judge Nazik Daham Awad, the deputy attorney general and judge in Ramadi Felony Court, is the only female of her type in Al Anbar Province. She attended law school and judge’s school in Baghdad and practiced law privately for 15 years prior to her judicial appointment. In a recent article written by Nazik, she describes the anarchic state of the province prior to the “Awakening Movement.” “In the past five years, Al Anbar Province has been through hard times as the nightmare of injustice, rage, killing, violence and absence of law and order were predominant. Human rights were trodden by blind terror and lost among theologian terrorists, extremists and military. Buildings were destroyed, shops were shut down, sons and fathers were slaughtered, children were kidnapped, laws were obstructed, courts were closed and there were no human rights.”
Within the last year, military efforts have focused on establishing rule of law. The only way Coalition forces will find their way out of Iraq is to work their way out of their security jobs. A functioning legal system is required where established laws are enforced by local law enforcement. Detained criminals must be processed through the legal system according to criminal procedure. The innocent and those whose detention was unwarranted must go free. Convicted criminals must face punishments as required by law in prison facilities free from sectarian violence.
Our efforts focus on cops, courts and corrections within the province. The challenges of professionalizing what once was a civilian militia into an effective crime fighting force are infinite. When war raged within Al Anbar, young men without the resources to flee were handed AK-47s and told to defend their neighborhoods. Houses of justice burned to the ground, judges presided over fear and the rule of terror dominated the citizenry of Al Anbar.
Yet, case-by-case, Coalition forces and the Iraqi government increase the capacity and the transparency of the Anbar criminal justice system.
Nearly every week I meet with Judge Nazik in her office downtown. We have the shared experience of being female in a male-dominated legal profession and we’re both believers. We have grown from collaborative partners with shared goals to what can best be described as friends. Should a fly have been on the wall in her office last week, he would have heard the giddy, excited laughter of us discussing her recent engagement. A woman’s obsession with romance is a universal phenomenon.
He also would have heard the focus of our meeting: ensuring detainees held by local police authorities are held with warrants and not in violation of judicial issued release order – legal procedures Nazik has sworn to protect.
We discussed the improved relationship between the police and the judges and the ever-increasing capacity of the police to thoroughly investigate crimes. I shared with her the reconstruction plans of local detention facilities. She reviews them to ensure separate facilities exist for females and juveniles.
In her article, the judge continues, “All of this [success] would not have seen the light, if it wasn’t for Sahwa [the Awakening], honorable people of Al Anbar, provincial independent judicial institutions and efforts of coalition forces who provided security. Today Al Anbar resides within a state of rule of law where human rights are respected.”
Together we are witnessing the success of American and Iraqi efforts.
I believe in the work our nation’s military is doing in Iraq. Judge Nazik believes in her country’s ability to hold criminals accountable for their crimes within a fair and just legal system.
Whether prosecuting crimes in New Orleans, or defending criminals in Ramadi, we are believers in the systems within which we work. We seek to improve these systems, desiring to increase their efficiency and, most importantly, people’s confidence in them.
“The rule of law only exists because enough of us believe in it and insist the nonbelievers behave as if it exists. The minute enough of us stop believing, stop insisting the law protect us all, and that every single one of us is accountable to the law – in that moment, the rule of law will be gone.” *
Although we practice in courtrooms worlds apart from one another, our conviction is the same. We believe in the rule of law.
*Michael Mullane, This I Believe, the Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. Yet to be published.