Judge Jassem Jaza Jafar from Sulaymaniyah

Kurdish judge sworn in as reserve member of Federal Supreme Court

BAGHDAD — Kurdish Judge Jassem Jaza Jafar was sworn in as a reserve member of the Federal Supreme Court before Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid. The oath followed a presidential decree appointing him to the position, according to a statement from the president’s office.

During the ceremony, Rashid emphasized the importance of enhancing the nation’s prestige, serving justice, upholding the rule of law, and maintaining social peace. He stressed the necessity of judicial independence to strengthen state institutions, combat corruption, and ensure protection.

Jafar’s appointment follows the resignation of Judge Abdulrahman Zebari from the Court on March 12. Zebari resigned, stating that the Federal Supreme Court’s decisions were against the principles of the federal system and that “we cannot support the rights of the Kurdistan Region in that court.” In a series of rulings since late 2022, the court abolished the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas law, declared its lame-duck parliament illegal, and granted the Baghdad government authority to directly handle KRG employees’ salaries.

The Federal Supreme Court consists of nine main members and four auxiliary members. Among them, Kurdish representation includes Abdulrahman Zebari, head of the Duhok Criminal Court, and Judge Jassem Jaza, head of the Sulaymaniyah Appellate Court.

Tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Supreme Court have been high in recent months. Officials from the KRG and its major party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, have repeatedly accused the Supreme Court of acting against the interests of the Kurdistan Region and undermining federalism in the country.

However, a rapprochement appears to have been initiated. Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani visited Chief Justice Jassim al-Omairi in Baghdad in early May. Another indication of improving relations was a lawsuit by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, which aims to delay the Kurdistan parliamentary election, likely to late 2024. Barzani’s lawsuit amounted to a  recognition of the court’s authority which the KRG had denied for months.