great court, Al Basrah, Court of Cassation, waqf, Kirkuk
The Iraqi judicial system is influenced by Ottoman and French law. There are civil courts (which deal also with administrative cases), criminal courts, and religious courts. The religious courts were abolished after the revolution of 1958 but reinstated by the Baath regime in the 1980s. The minister of justice has jurisdiction over all the courts and nominates all judges, who are appointed by the president.
Iraq’s highest court is the Court of Cassation, which reviews legal issues in appeals. It has 12 to 15 judges, who must have served as a judge for at least 15 years prior to appointment to this court. At least three judges must hear a case. In cases where the offense is punishable by death, five judges are required. The Court of Cassation has several departments: general, civil, criminal, administrative, and personal status. Sometimes these departments may try high officials or judges.
There are five types of civil courts. The first are courts of justices of the peace, whose jurisdiction is limited to minor cases and which are located in the major cities of Baghdad, Al Basrah, Mosul, and Kirkuk. Next are courts of the sole judge, which hear more serious cases and are located in all provincial capitals and subdivisions. Courts of first instance hear major civil cases and are located in all the provincial capitals. Appellate courts are located in the same four major cities as the courts of justices of the peace.
In criminal cases, a complaint of a crime is investigated by a magistrate, who decides if the matter is a major offense or a lesser offense. Lesser offenses are tried in a penal court, which usually consists of one judge. Major offenses are tried in a great court, which usually consists of three judges. Criminal courts are located wherever there are civil courts.
Religious courts are located wherever there are civil courts. They try cases of personal status, such as divorce cases and disputes involving waqf, which are gifts of land or property made by a Muslim and intended for religious, educational, or charitable use. There are Sunni, Shia, and Christian religious courts.
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