ICC Note: Uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Iraq’s election has kept the government from actively governing. Consequently, there is no path to pursue justice within the current climate. Instead many Iraqis are increasingly turning towards tribal laws as a substitute. The resulting violence is reminding a number of Iraqi Christians of 2003-2006, when the situation became so violent that Christians left Iraq in large numbers. The lack of governance also greatly hinders reconstruction efforts in the Nineveh Plains.
06/26/2018 Iraq (The National) – When a member of Iraq’s powerful Albu Esa tribe was shot dead by a short-tempered militiaman, no policeman was called, no judge was summoned or court hearing held. Instead, Baghdad left it to tribal justice.
Diya Hadi Al Easawi had been trying to force his way through the busy gateway between Iraq’s capital and Sunni-majority Anbar province by skirting the long queue of vehicles. Tensions boiled over, warning shots were fired and Al Easawi was killed by a stray bullet to the head.
The leaders of his tribe chose not to pursue the killer – a member of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella of largely Iran-backed Shiite militia groups – who was set free and the case closed.
Mahmood Al Easawi, a leader of the Albu Esa tribe, says this has been a regular occurrence in Iraq’s westernmost province, where the central government’s jurisdiction, and residents’ confidence in the Iraqi leadership, is at an all-time low.
“Every single week, the government will ask us to resolve a murder,” the 39-year-old says. “People go to their sheikhs to fix their problems, not the government. They don’t trust the government.”
In Fallujah, Sheikh Mahmood sits in a cool, dark corner of one of the coffee shops that has reopened in Anbar’s second-biggest city following its liberation from ISIS control. He sports a large moustache and wears a military uniform. As well as being a respected tribal leader, Mahmood is also a major in the PMF’s Sunni component, the Hashed Al Ashaari, and he speaks openly about the tribal role in Iraqi law enforcement.
“Under Saddam, when someone was killed, the court decided. [Today] there is no law, so you can see tribal power more,” he says. “Tribal power has always remained the same, the difference is in the power of the law. It was strong under Saddam, now it’s weaker.”
The fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the gaping power vacuum that ensued paved the way for the resurfacing of tribal customs. Sheikhs in Fallujah say Iraq’s weak federal government and ongoing political turmoil has only served to strengthen their centuries-old system.
This was compounded in post-ISIS-Iraq, where the growing schism between a Shia-dominated government and Sunni civilians is pushing Anbaris to their local leaders and bypassing a rule of law of which they remain sceptical.
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