Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Iraqi Interior Ministry Reduces Corruption, Improves Rule of Law

New systems and procedures within the Iraqi Interior Ministry have decreased corruption and increased professionalism in several divisions, a Navy officer said.

Navy Cmdr. John Muth, director of special staff for the Ministry of Interior Transitional Team, discussed the ministry's progress with bloggers and online journalists March 18 during a "DoDLive" Bloggers Roundtable.

Muth touched on the ministry's four divisions -- internal affairs and security, office of inspector general, human rights and the court system.

"The main mission of the internal affairs and security directorate is to arrest bad cops," Muth said. The directorate also has missions related to counterterrorism and security background checks.

Muth said that when he arrived in April 2008, security was lacking, but steadily improving. Internal affairs visited locations in Basra, Diyala, Mosul and Samarra where the police were not functioning well, he explained. Their visits resulted in police officers either being fired or disciplined.

"From an operational point of view, I've seen improvements in the police force because bad elements within the police force have been removed," Muth said.

The Iraqis are building the office of inspector general "into something that can look at financial corruption, look at different procedures that are being utilized, and standard operating procedures," he said.

"So now you have systems that are being followed, procedures that are being followed," he continued. "You have a greatly increased level of professionalism by the police and how they conduct their business."

The increased professionalism has created a domino effect and is now reducing corruption and improving the rule of law, he noted.

Muth also discussed human rights for prisoners in pretrial detention centers, which is under the ministry's responsibility.

"There was a human rights case in Diyala where a family of Sunni complained to internal affairs about the death of one of their family members while in police custody," Muth said. "It was addressed by internal affairs."

This case was significant, Muth said. While there was some political interference, the major general who handled the case was very professional and was not deterred from his job.

The ministry's court system also has improved, the commander said.

"We've seen good progress in that [court] system and we think that it'll have large effects in improving the discipline of the police and holding them accountable," he said.

In the past, the police were not held accountable for their actions, Muth said, but the number of cases brought against officers has more than doubled since 2007.

"We've seen a large increase in the total number of cases that have been opened by internal affairs and that are being closed," he said. "And in 2008, we had ... 1,500 or so policemen fired and some 2,000 be disciplined."

Now, Muth said the transition team is shifting its emphasis to advanced training.

"Since October, we've trained 500 or 600 people in the inspector general's area," Muth said. "And as we get the population of the IG trained in those basic concepts, we've also gone to advanced investigation training."

In the future, Muth said he believes the coalition will be involved with specialized training rather than basic concepts training.

Muth acknowledged that corruption remains a problem within the ministry, but said he is seeing a positive trend in eliminating it.

"I've been personally rewarded in terms of dealing with the Iraqi people," he said. "I can tell you that they are working very hard to improve their organization. While there's a lot of friction and things don't always move smoothly, there's definite progress forward."

(Author Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby is assigned to the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)

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