Government and civil society consult on access to justice for IDPs and returnees

A consultation with representatives of Iraq’s Government and civil society on Improving Access to Justice for Internally Displaced and Returnee Populations was organized on 4 December 2016, at Al Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies in Baghdad. 

Funded by the Government of Japan and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), thirteen participants identified priorities and practical ways to improve access to justice through legal aid in a post-liberation Iraq context. 

UNDP Rule of Law Programme Manager, Ms. Chamila Hemmathagama, emphasized: “UNDP is here to listen and learn. Close consultation with national partners is a key approach to our efforts in addressing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and the results speak for themselves.” 

As the key note speaker, Legal Advisor of the Council of Ministers Secretariat (COMSEC) and Head of the Operations Office for UN Resolution 1325, Mr. Kasim al-Zameli, noted: “It is important to engage women in all efforts of recovery, whilst also working closely with local actors to develop local solutions.” 

With these approaches in mind, participants identified the immediate needs of displaced people from Mosul and other liberated areas and outlined recommendations. Participants largely agreed that government service providers, such as the police, courts, and social welfare actors, should work in or near internally displaced people (IDP) camp settings, to ensure responsiveness and build trust with these groups of population. 

Integrated approaches to service provision—including psychosocial support, medical care, and justice—would also help IDPs overcome physical, bureaucratic and even cultural barriers to realizing rights. 

Participants recommended the creation of mobile courts or justice centres, and multi-service, one-stop women’s centres. Some participants noted the importance of careful assessments of the priorities of vulnerable groups, the need to build trust with IDP constituencies, and to document lessons learned at the governorate level. 

The dire situation of families who may have been unfairly accused of supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was also highlighted, as well as the increasing risk of revenge attacks. In this context, the potential of transitional justice initiatives was also discussed. 

Advisor to the Governor of Salah al-Din on Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Ms. Entisar Khalaf Khadr, reaffirmed the importance of providing legal aid to returning families who suffered from displacement. 

“They are facing a lot of legal problems, specifically women, as hundreds of them were not officially married in courts, and their children are not registered. Additionally, a large number of families have lost their male breadwinner to detainment or killing by ISIL. They need urgent legal Aid.” 

The Improving Access to Justice consultation was conducted to inform the wider efforts of UNDP’s Rule of Law Programme. This programme supports access to justice for displaced populations in parallel with efforts to strengthen security sector reform.

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