EUJUST LEX-Iraq: Promoting the Rule of Law in Iraq

2012-07-25 iraq
Author: John Durnin
EUJUST LEX-Iraq: Promoting the Rule of Law in Iraq

Nowhere is the European Union’s commitment to the comprehensive approach in crisis management more apparent than in its conduct of missions and operations under its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Since 2003, 24 of these have been or are being conducted; at present nine civilian and three military missions and operations are underway.

One of the smaller and less well-known of these missions is the European Union Integrated Rule of Law Mission for Iraq, better known as EUJUST LEX-Iraq. It is an excellent example of how a small group of international and national professionals are steadily improving the way of life of many Iraqis after the traumatic times that they have endured. People may be inclined to hear that “EUJUST LEX-Iraq” is a so-called “rule of law” mission and react with a yawn: what could be more boring than slowly trying to educate and train Iraqi judges, police officers and prison governors?

But this would be to miss the reality:  that in what is still a conflict-ridden country, dedicated experts are continually striving to impart the benefits of their experiences so that the mission will in due course be able to hand over the reins to their Iraqi counterparts so that they themselves can continue to raise the standards of Iraqi jurisprudence to an international level.

EUJUST LEX-Iraq was the EU's first integrated rule of law mission. It is now led by Brigadier-General László HUSZÁR who was Director-General of the Hungarian Prison Service; his deputy is Jonas Westerlund, a Swedish diplomat. Its operational phase started on 1 July 2005 following an invitation by the then Prime Minister of the Iraqi interim government, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to the EU, calling for the start of integrated training activities for Iraqi professionals working in the criminal justice system. The current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, extended his welcome and support for the Mission and its activities; and requested continued support from the EU in addressing the needs of the Iraqi criminal justice system through the activities of EUJUST LEX-Iraq.


After having been based in Brussels for security reasons since its inception, EUJUST LEX-Iraq is now fully employed in Iraq since the spring of 2011. The headquarters is located in Baghdad, while there is one field office in Erbil (in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and an “antenna” office in Basra (Southern Iraq).


EUJUST LEX-Iraq was established to strengthen the rule of law and to promote a culture of respect for human rights in Iraq by providing professional development opportunities for high and mid-level Iraqi officials from the criminal justice system. The core aim is to contribute to a consolidation of security by underpinning the system of rule of law. After the successful move into Iraq, the majority of the Mission’s activities are taking place there, either facilitated with in-house expertise, with the assistance of EU visiting experts or in cooperation with other international actors. The group of 53 international staff is divided, apart from command and support elements, into three functional teams: a judicial team, led by a prosecutor from Bulgaria; a police team, led by a policeman from the UK; and a penitential team, led by a prison officer also from the UK. Despite what is still a challenging security environment, the Mission, working closely with the Iraqi authorities, has, during the last seven years, successfully trained 5069 participants from the Iraqi Correctional Service (ICS), the judiciary and the police and has carried out 492 training courses. Projects involve all branches of the Iraqi criminal justice system and are ongoing in all three locations. Some specialised courses are also held in EU member states, as are Work Experience Secondments. All activities offer learning opportunities and demonstrate rule of law best practices, as well as facilitate the exchange of views between EU trainers and Iraqi participants.


EUJUST LEX-Iraq has excellent relations with both local and international counterparts and co-ordinates its activities – in particular with the U.S. and the UN – on a bilateral basis as well as in rule of law policy fora in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra. The Mission systematically follows-up on its alumni through evaluation workshops, to assess the applicability of its training activities and to adjust them to Iraqi needs. Furthermore, the Mission has achieved considerable progress in mainstreaming human rights and gender into its training activities with positive feedback from the Iraqi participants.


Working on this mission gives incredible job satisfaction to those who are involved and despite the perceived dangers of living in a conflict zone such as Iraq, all mission members claim that the improvements in the Iraqi justice system make their efforts worthwhile. 


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