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Finding an Expert in Iraqi Law

The author tells about his experiences as a expert on Iraqui law.

For the past five years, I have been working as Expert Witness for law firms and North American and European Courts. I have provided expertise on Islamic Law (Sharia) and Arab legal practice including the law of Yemen, Jordan and Iraq. I have advised the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Immigration Judges on whether or not certain claims are genuine and whether individuals are eligible to be granted refugee status. I have also advised the DePaul University School of Law in Chicago on its project to help Iraqi transitional government adopt a permanent constitution and reestablishing judicial constitution.

I answered many questions in my role as an expert and stated my opinion on many issues, but there was nothing worthy to write about until now. Recently, an American law firm asked me to testify on the issue of whether serving a document by email is acceptable under Iraqi law. I was more than happy to do so; however, in order to add strength to my opinion on the matter, I advised the client that we should also provide the opinion of experts who currently reside in Iraq since their opponent provide the Legal Counsel of Iraqi Ministry of Justice.

With the clientʼs agreement, I went to seek the opinion of experts in Iraqi law who are currently inside Iraq. I first approached a professor in Iraq with excellent credentials whom, among other things, was an expert in civil procedure. He has been serving the Iraqi government and private sector for over thirty years. Upon requesting his opinion, he welcomed the idea. However, the very next day, He contacted me and was a bit hesitant about providing a verbal opinion. His suggestion was that he would give a verbal opinion; though he would not sign any affidavits and would not attach his name to the opinion. He stated that he was fearful stating his opinion as the security situation in Iraq worsened. Although this would not provide the weight necessary to make the opinion strong, I agreed. He then called me again the third day. This time, he refused to give any written or verbal opinion, anonymous or not, and claimed that he would not betray his nation and testify.

With time a factor, I continued my search for an expert in Iraqi civil procedure. I then approached a young Iraqi judge. I thought that this would be a good choice as it was possible the Professor still lived in the old fashion fear and philosophy. A young judge would not necessarily have these hang-ups, and this was a good thing. The Judge verbally gave me his finding and promised to send me his written opinion by email. I waited a few days for his response, but I never received anything from him. A few days later, I was finally able to get a hold of the Judge and he told me that he had consulted with the head of his court and he was advised not to state his opinion on this issue. The Judge, an expert in Iraqi civil procedure and someone who decides these issues on a daily basis, was told that if he put his signature on his opinion, he would be in trouble. The reason that he was given was that his opinion would put him in a no-win situation. If his opinion hurt the American company in this case, then the Judge might get in trouble with the occupying power. Conversely, if his opinion would hurt the Iraqi party, he might be in trouble with his own government. What this meant for me was this was another dead end.

My search for an expert opinion continued once again and this time it led me to a retired Iraqi Attorney. I thought this was it as he did not have to fear a loss of a job or intimidation by the government. I gave the Attorney full details of the case and asked for his opinion in the matter. He asked me since I was already an expert in Iraqi law of civil procedure, why did I need his opinion. He was unwilling to give an opinion on the matter no matter how much I asked him for one.

To avoid repetition of the story, the same thing happened a fourth time. In the end, we were not able to get an opinion from anyone living in Iraq and had to resort to getting an opinion of an excellent Jordanian professor who did his L.L.B., L.L.M and Ph.D. in Iraq.

The point I am trying to make is that even in a civil case which has no political or security ramifications, I was unable to get an opinion from inside Iraq. I never thought that my mission to find an opinion on civil procedure would be so difficult. I am not certain why this is the case. It could be that Saddam Husseinʼs reign is still living inside the hearts of the Iraqi people or it could also be the instability and lack of security that has taken place due to the war. What I do know is that the blindfold of justice is being compromised in Iraq due to this fear and uncertainty.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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