International Law

Sectarian Cases Risky for Iraqi Lawyers

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Taking on sectarian cases is risky business for lawyers in Iraq.

Lawyers face threats, intimidation and worse. Reuters reports the death toll for lawyers is on the rise.

Citing figures from Iraq’s lawyers syndicate, Reuters reports that 103 lawyers were killed between 2003 and 2008, though the actual number could be much higher because not all cases are reported. The syndicate doesn’t have figures after 2008.

“The lack of security allows lawyers to be threatened particularly if they take on sensitive cases and those who make threats are able to do so with impunity,” Samer Muscati, a researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch is quoted saying.

Baghdad lawyer Thair al-Qassim tells the news agency that he’s been threatened 32 times. He managed to escape after being kidnapped and had to pay $40,000 for the return of his kidnapped son.

“When I defend a client who is from the Sunni sect…someone from the other side, the Shi’ite side, calls me and says ‘Sir, leave this case, otherwise you will face regrettable consequences’ - and vice versa,” Qassim tells Reuters.

But Qassim says he’s not quitting the practice because it’s how he earns a living.

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