Skip to comments.Soldiers help legitimize Iraq’s legal system
Posted on 05/23/2007 4:40:56 PM PDT by SandRat
KIRKUK He downloaded chickens as a member of his high schools Future Farmers of America club. Growing up, he worked the sun-drenched oil fields of southern Arkansas. Hes no stranger to rolling up his shirt sleeves to get a job done, a quality that is serving him well during his mission as a Soldier in northern Iraq.
Hes Capt. Duane Kees, brigade judge advocate, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, who is currently working to instill integrity and legitimacy into a legal system weathered by decades of neglect and distrust in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Kees was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and raised in Pine Bluff. He is the prosecuting attorney on criminal and administrative matters for 3rd Brigade, and advises commanders at all levels on a variety of legal issues. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kees is one of the brigades legal experts in areas unique to a war zone.
Im constantly giving legal assistance to commanders and Soldiers on all variety of things out here, explained Kees. At war, there is an operational aspect of our work that is unique to being deployed, he said. We provide training, teaching and advice on things like the rules of engagement, escalation of force and the law of armed conflict [among other things].
Perhaps most challenging for Kees, however, is his additional responsibility of bringing legitimacy to a dysfunctional legal system. Kees is one of dozens of attorneys country-wide who is involved in helping to improve Iraqs rule of law.
Iraq has a foundation for the rule of law as its called. It has a codified judicial system, and a legislature and government based on that system. Yet, through the Saddam Era, the country lost it, didnt abide by it and strayed from it when it was in their best interest to do so, said Kees. Were trying to help Iraqi citizens have faith again in their laws by improving a legal system that can be trusted.
Kees works to provide more accountability in the regions detainee operations, evaluates infrastructure needs like courthouses and jails and speaks with judges to offer operational recommendations. That said, Kees often works more by feel and instinct than hes accustomed.
When I practiced law in Arkansas and Hawaii [where I am stationed when not at war] there was always a book that provided guidance. Out here, theres no book on how to help bestow dignity to a peoples legal system, a system thats foreign to me. Out here, at times its like Im playing chess in the dark, he said.
Although he might now know for certain whether hes making the right move on occasion, in those moments Kees relies on gut instinct and with confidence knowing that hes been taught by the best and raised and educated well.
Growing up in Arkansas, Kees parents emphasized learning. His mother holds two masters degrees and works as a librarian at Watson Chapel located in Pine Bluff, Ark. His father is the Superintendent of the White Hall School District also in Pine Bluff.
Kees himself excelled academically, first while a high schooler in small town Stevens, Ark., and later at the University of Arkansas where he attended on an academic scholarship. Form there, all it took was a little back-braking work in the oil fields of southern Arkansas to push the future Army lawyer to law school also in his native Arkansas at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Of course, Kees understands that the War on Terror will not be resolved by his efforts or those of his legal colleagues. But legitimizing the rule of law in Iraq will be a cornerstone of a better future for its citizens.
Often, a stable society comes down to the court system. Laws are no good if you cant enforce them. Laws are no good if you cant apply them. Laws are no good if you cannot interpret them. All that is accomplished by the rule of law, Kees emphasized. If [citizens] dont view [their] court system as legitimate, you can have the most honorable judge but if he is not seen as such, if the system isnt viewed as fair, you really dont have much.