Commentary Search

AF top JAG: 'Rule of law' critical for success in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A fair justice system, which holds people accountable for their actions, is vital in stopping the violence in Iraq, said the Air Force's top judge advocate general recently during a tour of Southwest Asia.

Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives visited the men and women of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing during a tour here and also visited Airmen at Camp Bucca, Iraq. A part of his mission was to ensure the members of the JAG corps have the right programs in place to properly categorize the detainees, and to help assure fair processes are in place for those who deserve prosecution.

It's also important to establish rehabilitation programs for detainees who will be released, to improve their chances of being constructive members of society, he said.

"We don't just assume that people are guilty because of when or where they were apprehended or even because of the information we believe we have against them," said General Rives. "We provide the detainees due process so those who can be returned to society can understand that the legal system treated them fairly. Hopefully we can have good relations with them and their friends, families and followers. It's important to show that the rule of law is the way ahead."

At Camp Bucca there are 31 JAGs and 21 paralegals working detainee operations. All are on 179- or 365-day deployments. This significant investment of resources shows the emphasis the Air Force puts on doing things correctly.

"For us, having the right processes in place at Camp Bucca is very important," the general said. "We are doing things the right way and the men and women implementing the programs are doing so very effectively."

A big part of what the JAGs are doing is sorting through who needs to be detained and who doesn't.

"Iraq has many dangerous people who need to be detained and appropriately punished, often for a very long time. They have other people who have done something wrong for which they deserve detention and punishment, but more emphasis for these people should be placed on rehabilitation," the general said. "For example, there are many education and training programs in place that allow these detainees to avoid being influenced by the worst of the other detainees. We must properly sort through the detainee population and deal with each individual in the right manner. That's the process currently on-going at Camp Bucca."

While assisting with such detainee operations is new to the Air Force, the general said Airmen are making great strides with these issues.

"I'm proud of the members of the JAG corps who are helping assure we do things the right way, from the beginning," he said.