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News Legal Killing of Enemies in Iraq?

  1. May 22, 2012 #1
    A guy I met who had served in the US Military in Iraq told me the following unbelievable story: in Iraq, he claimed, a person can get court permission to kill someone who has wronged them. He has to go before a judge and prove that the person in question did something severely wrong, humiliating, or unjust. If the judge agrees the offense was bad enough, he will issue that person a license to kill the other person, and he can set about trying to do that without the target having any warning.

    This sounds like what I would have to call a 'military legend' (an urban legend confined to military circles).

    I googled a few things but couldn't find anything. "Legal killing" gets automatically attached to Bush, etc.

    Anyone know enough about Iraqi law to rule the existence of such a thing out?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2012 #2
    That doesn't sound likely in Iraq. Until a few years ago, it was a secular dictatorship, and I can't imagine such behavior to be tolerated in such a system. Now, Iraq is supposed to be a democracy under close watch of the US, and I can't imagine the US would support such a policy either.

    If you told me that that policy existed in Iran or Saudi Arabia, I'd be more inclined to believe it, because religious courts are stronger there.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any knowledge of Iraq's legal system. I can just confirm that my "baloney detector" is going off just as yours did when hearing this.
  4. May 23, 2012 #3
  5. May 23, 2012 #4
    This link doesn't mention anything about Iraq. Iraq has been a secular country for most of modern history, and in very recent years has been somewhat of a US puppet.
  6. May 23, 2012 #5
    Most Iraqis are Muslims. It could well be the government lets the in situ religious system handle day-to-day justice in the traditional way.
  7. May 23, 2012 #6
    As Thomas points out it sounds like Sharia law. I believe that the Shiites have been holdouts on the new government and attempting to go to sharia law. It would certainly seem possible that in Shiite controlled areas they attempt to enforce sharia. They may even be going before non government sanctioned sharia arbitrators and local government may be forced, or choose, to turn a blind eye. Of course this is just speculation. A quick search shows "sharia advancing in Iraq" but the sources all look like blogs and many biased at that. None of them seem to mentioned sanctioned murder either, primarily a particular city that has banned alcohol.
  8. May 23, 2012 #7


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    What he said might be true in rare instances by Sharia law, but it's definitely not true about Iraq's laws in recent history. http://law.fsu.edu/journals/transnational/vol16_1/Stigall.pdf [Broken]

    Like many Middle Eastern countries, Iraq's laws have been influenced by Sharia law, but also by many other sources. Since World War II and definitely since the 50's, the roots of Iraq's laws are mostly influenced by French civil law, the Mejelle (a series of law codes influenced by the Ottoman empire), with Sharia law traditions providing acceptable guidance for judges (especially in family law) if no other law covers the situation.

    Iraq's new, post-invasion constitution gives more influence to religions and religious leaders, plus prohibits discrimination based on gender - a seeming paradox, not to mention that, theoretically at least, family law will be governed by whatever religion a person belongs to. In other words, next door neighbors may have different laws for divorce because they belong to a different religion. But even with a constitution that provides for more religious influence, I'd say a return to ancient Sharia law would be pretty unlikely.

    While the constitution seems to indicate some drastic changes for the future, in practice, Iraq has no more scrapped the laws that have worked for them for decades than the US did when we implemented our own constitution. Court tradition carries a lot of weight.

    His story is similar to claiming a person in the West can be hanged for horse rustling.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. May 23, 2012 #8
    maybe a case of
  10. May 23, 2012 #9
    Thanks everyone.

    I read Thomas' wiki article. It gave me the idea the tall tale I heard might be a case of telephone, or Chinese Whispers


    applied to this:

    specifically the part about the victim/victim's family determining the punishment. Retold around the barracks often enough, it might evolve into the whacky story I heard. I can imagine bored 18 year old Marines going from, "The victim's family gets to decide if the offender is executed or just goes to jail," to, "The victim get's legal permission to go out and kill the offender."
  11. May 25, 2012 #10
    I served in Iraq and had the oppritunity to work closely with several of our native translators.

    They explained that local justice is by and large handled by the "clan" leadership. If you wrong a person in the same clan bad enough your leaders may grant you permission to kill them. This typically requires a warning that often consists of tossing a red rug or other marker infront of the house of the intended victim.

    Disspute between different tribes or clans often involve violence and rarely warranted more then token offical police involvement.

    In my experiance there are not "legal killings" in the judicial system there are simply killings that are accepted and ignored.
  12. May 25, 2012 #11
    Very interesting! Without being exactly analogous, these "clans" then, may bear more relation to the Sicilian Mafia or Chinese Tongs than anything else.
  13. May 25, 2012 #12
    Yes, I think that this might be the case in many communities. That is, the law and practice of justice within any particular community might differ somewhat from governmental law. I don't know, because I've never lived in a society that allows what the OP is talking about.
  14. May 26, 2012 #13
    The important thing Oltz's post clarifies is that this isn't actually legal, just that the official police don't do anything about such killings, as embodied in the closing line of the movie: "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." The whole thing makes more sense this way as opposed to the way the guy described it to me as being legal. The police in the U.S. now don't put themselves out of their way too much to solve murders they are sure are gang related. It's too difficult to get anyone in that world to testify against anyone else.
  15. May 26, 2012 #14
    I don't think that's quite the case in the US. And I hope it never comes to that.

    Well, legal is as legal does, so to speak. I think there might be reason to believe that religious law supercedes governmental law in certain locales.

    I don't know that that's the case. I hope it isn't.

    Not to be too cynical, but I suspect that law enforcement in locations of high gang activity aren't too concerned about gang x killing members of gang y, and vice versa. Personally, I'm not overly concerned about gang members killing each other. The more the better, imo.

    Anyway, back to the OP. It seems to me to be quite reasonable to suppose that in regions where religion reigns supreme that provincial religious customs would trump governmental dictates. In other words, I think there might be some truth in what your friend said.
  16. May 26, 2012 #15


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    I have lived in three different Muslim countries, Iran, Turkey, and Egypt, for a total of eight years. I also was married to a Turkish woman. Although I am not of the Muslim faith I do have intimate familiarity with some of their customs. Under both Shiite (Iran) and Sunni (Turkey and Egypt) branches of Islam an ocassional killing as in the OP's story does actually occur.

    In these extremely religious groups civil law can be secondary or meaningless, just as ThomasT writes above. Religious law and social customs often govern the resolution of disputes. But someone has to do some really, really terrible and bad things (like rape or messing with another's wife) before the local mullah would sanction such a killing.

    When westerners live in other cultures they need to be very careful to know the limits of behavior and possible reprecussions of misbehavior. They also must try not to publicly voice disagreement with the local system. After all, even though the foreigner may strongly disagree with some custom, it is not his position to judge for the native population what is right or wrong.

    I am not so familiar with PF rules regarding religious discussions, but is there perhaps a Muslim member who would care to comment on this?
  17. May 26, 2012 #16
    Thanks for the interesting information. What exactly is a "mullah"? Is this a kind of clan or tribal leader, or a religious leader?
  18. May 26, 2012 #17
    @ Bobbywhy,
    Wrt your post #15, that's interesting. It puts your statements about this stuff in a different context than I had imagined.

    I was just guessing based on my experience in the US and what I've read that it's best not to judge others actions out of hand because they might be behaving according to different rules. Living comfortably in middle class society in the US, it's easy to forget, or just be unaware of, the fact that some societies take their religion very very seriously -- as in life or death seriously.

    Regarding what's allowed at PF, I'm pretty sure that you can make statements about the content of laws/rules of any religion. What's off limits, because it often degenerates into emotional rants, are judgemental statements regarding the doctrines of any religion, and the social mores of any particular religious group.

    Islamic (Sharia) justice might seem a bit harsh to most Americans. But it seems to me that its basic concept of justice is pretty much the same as with middle class America. Just that the penalties for breaking the rules are much more severe. Tough love, eh?
    Last edited: May 26, 2012
  19. May 26, 2012 #18


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    Mullah (Arabic: ملا‎) is generally used to refer to a Muslim man, educated in Islamic theology and sacred law. The title, given to some Islamic clergy, is derived from the Arabic word مَوْلَى mawlā, meaning "vicar", "master" and "guardian". In large parts of the Muslim world, particularly Iran, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Central Asia, Somalia and South Asia, it is the name commonly given to local Islamic clerics or mosque leaders.[1]
  20. May 26, 2012 #19


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    In our world Christians make up the largest religious group with over two billion members, or 32% (and declining). Islam has over one and a half billion adherents, or 22% (and growing). http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm

    Of course some of Islam’s more unusual social customs tend to get into our news here in the Western civilization. My first year in Iran I watched hundreds of shirtless men flail themselves bloody with barbed whips in honor of the Shiite Prophet, Hussein. But in the Philippines on Good Friday I have seen similar actions. No group has a monopoly on extreme expressions of their faith.

    I was raised in a Christian family and environment. During my years living in Islamic countries the most surprising thing to me was how similar the two religions are.

    “Christianity and Islam share much common ground. Both trace their roots to Abraham. Both believe in prophecy, God's messengers (apostles), revelation, scripture, (and angels), the resurrection of dead, and the centrality of religious community. This last element is especially important. Both Christianity and Islam have a communitarian dimension: what the church is to Christianity the "umma" is to Islam.”

    The Muslim holy book, the Quran, even has this passage:

    “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] - those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.”
    (Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) - سورة البقرة 2:62)

    In the interest of world peace and harmony it behooves us to learn about and to respect the beliefs of our neighbors.

    Now I will attempt to disclose
    A fact you may not easily suppose
    And hopefully, the truth expose.
    Here is the thought experiment I propose:
    Are native families in Egypt similar to those
    Everyday folks that American families compose?
    Or do you think human family differences arose
    So that a barrier between peoples we must impose?
    Keep secret the answer you chose
    Because the correct answer, I propose
    Is as clear and plain as the nose
    On your face. With that I close.
  21. May 27, 2012 #20
    The West has had it's dark days Religion. It has been used as the basis for sub-human treatment of women, people of certain other religions, race, etc. Some parts of the world have become mostly free of the oppression religion can impose. But some parts of the world are still in their dark days.

    It's something they will have to overcome as a nation, and a culture.

    I don't feel thought that it is somehow better of me to respect oppressive systems in order to be tolerant.
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