A View on Iraq Customs Law, Customs Court and the Major Crimes Related to the Iraqi Customs System

By Mustafa Muayad - Head of Baghdad office - m.ridha@saltandassociates.com - 00964 78 050 10222

A View on Iraq Customs Law, Customs Court and the Major Crimes Related to the Iraqi Customs System

The Customs Law No. 23 of 1984 is one of the special laws that have been issued to govern a specific activity from the activities of individuals and institutions related to the entry and exit of goods and commodities to and from Iraq. Therefore, it is a law governing the ongoing activities in a particular facility of the State, namely the Customs area as specified by the law.

The provisions of the Iraqi Customs Law applies to the customs area, which includes the territories under the sovereignty of the Iraqi State, its territorial waters and sea. All goods crossing the customs line for entry, exit or transit shall be subject to the provisions of this law and the applicable customs rules.

The establishment of a customs zone, or duty-free market which is not subject to the provisions of the Customs Law can be done in exceptional cases.

The importance of the customs system has emerged as a result of the development of commercial activity, which has made the customs system one of the main income sources of countries, where governments raise large sums of money from the trade with other countries, which supports the State treasury. And whenever there is a law governing a particular activity, we should expect violations of this law and crimes committed to evade its application. The law of customs is not considered an exception to this hypothesis, as it is any law that can be circumvented and evaded. Hence, the need arose for the enactment of a customs law that includes deterrent penalties for the crimes that may occur in the course of doing business.

And whenever there is a law governing a particular activity we should expect violations of this law and crimes committed to evade its application. The law of customs is not an exception to this hypothesis, as any law can be circumvented and evaded. Here arises the need to enact a law that imposes penalties to deter crimes that can be occur during the commercial activity. The Iraqi legislator has given great importance to this type of crime because it includes the motive of earning material at the expense of public assets which causes great harm to the State and since it is targeting for one of its resources.

The Iraqi law defines a number of customs crimes, for example, smuggling crimes, crimes related to acquisition, and other offenses related to customs entry permits, crimes related to the cargo manifest and other crimes. The crime of smuggling can be considered one of the most serious of these crimes. Article 191 of the Customs Law defines it as being ” the entry of goods to Iraq or their exist  it out of Iraq,  contrary to the provisions of the law of customs without paying customs duties or fees and taxes, fully or partially, contrary to the provisions of prevention and restriction contained in this law and other laws.” The customs law considers the failure of following the methods specified by the Customs Law in matters of entry and exit of goods, as well as the failure of exposing goods when entering to the nearest customs office, as being  smuggling offenses.

Since the crimes committed as a result of this type of activity are considered specialized in some specific  cases and related to given actions,  and due to the tendency in most countries of the world to specialization in the judiciary and establishing  special courts dealing with a particular type of crimes, the Iraqi Customs Law in its article 245 stipulates the formation of a special court for Customs crimes, and called it The Customs Court, and it is  responsible for adjudicating the lawsuits filed by the customs department in order to collect customs duties, taxes and other costs. It also reviews the objections to the collection and fining decisions, pursuant to the provisions of Article 242 of the Customs Law. Other courts are prohibited from considering cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the Customs Court, provided that the latter court shall be composed of a full-time judge of no less than the second class,  and the membership of two of the customs officers holding a primary university degree (i.e. B A Degree)  in the law, whose  rank shall not be less than the third rank.

The current customs law is the legal reference to the Customs Court and it shall apply its articles and clauses when considering the cases referred to it. In addition, when considering cases, it may apply the Civil Procedure Law and the Code of Criminal Procedures in cases where there is no provision in the Customs Law.

Establishing the Customs Law and the Customs Court is one of the steps through  which the Iraqi legislator wanted to develop the customs system, by establishing  a law and a specialized court to settle the disputes and crimes resulting from the customs activity as soon as possible,  to cope with the global development in this type of economic activity, and to provide the required protection of the State and public money.


Attorney Hussein Najm Abdullah