Bodyguards for Iraqi Judges Prohibited From Carrying Guns

By Justin Rood

Aug 29, 2007 12:37pm

Despite death threats and attempts on their lives, Iraqi judges are not allowed to have armed bodyguards, a senior U.S. official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com. "The Ministry of the Interior has not approved for them to carry weapons," U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) Stuart Bowen said in an interview Tuesday of judicial security details. "That exposes the judges to a very serious personal threat, and intimidation." Bowen said he learned of the situation during a recent three-week visit to the country, where he spoke to Iraqi judges and prosecutors about the country’s judicial system. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Blotter Report: Corruption Investigations in Iraq Stopped in Their Tracks Blotter Federal Watchdogs Facing New Scrutiny Click Here for to Check Out the Latest Brian Ross Slideshows Trying to uphold the law is a deadly job in Iraq. More than 30 judges have been killed in the line of duty in recent years, the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council disclosed this month. Bowen said the Interior Ministry’s position was perplexing. "There’s not a good rationale for that," he said. "I’m concerned." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The ministry has long been considered a haven and armory for Shiite Muslim militias operating in the country. Its commando units have been known to operate as sectarian death squads, although its new chief has vowed to replace any commanders who have been implicated in kidnappings or murder. Despite promises of reform, the Italian police busted a secret $40 million arms deal the Interior Ministry had apparently struck with Italian traffickers to buy weapons without U.S. knowledge. Judges aren’t the only officials of Iraq’s rule of law system who receive death threats, according to Bowen. Fear haunts the staff of the Commission on Public Integrity, who are currently working nearly 1,000 open investigations of fraud and abuse by Iraqi officials. "I met with the commissioner here in Washington yesterday," Bowen said. "He has been subjected to very serious threats and intimidation tactics. Just a couple days ago, the house next to his was mortared in the Green Zone. He’s very fearful for his life and the lives of his family." Despite this, prosecutions are occurring, although they are mostly of Sunni officials, Bowen said. And when prosecutors manage to convict a criminal, the victory can be short-lived, said Bowen. The inspector general said a judge in Baghdad told him about encountering a convicted murderer in public recently. "[It was] someone who he convicted and sentenced for life — he ran into him on the street," Bowen said. The judge, whom Bowen declined to name out of concern for the judge’s safety, confronted the man. "He said, ‘You’re right, I was guilty. You ran a good trial. But I was able to keep myself out of prison by paying $40,000,’" said Bowen. "I’m concerned about the capacity of Iraq’s rule of law system to enforce the law." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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