Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – On 19 May 2022, a commercial court sitting in Al Karkh, Baghdad, acted at the request of the Minister of Oil in Baghdad and purported to issue summonses to international oil companies (IOCs) operating within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Those IOCs - which include Addax, DNO, Genel, Gulf Keystone, HKN, Shamaran, and WesternZagros - operate in the Kurdistan Region in accordance with the Kurdistan Region’s Oil and Gas Law (No. 22 of 2007), which was issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government in accordance with its powers under the Constitution of Iraq.
These court summonses are the latest in a series of illegal actions taken by the Minister of Oil and his staff under the current caretaker government in Baghdad. These illegal actions are apparently based upon a ruling by a court in Baghdad that calls itself the “Federal Supreme Court”. This so-called “Federal Supreme Court” issued a politically motivated decision on 15 February 2022, which purported to declare the 2007 Oil and Gas Law void.
No court in Baghdad has the authority to make such a declaration. On 28 February 2022, the President of the Kurdistan Region, together with the presidents of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Kurdistan Regional Government, issued a statement rejecting the 15 February decision. On 4 June 2022, the Judicial Council, the highest judicial institution in the Kurdistan Region, issued a statement upholding the validity of the 2007 Oil and Gas Law. The Council noted that Article 92(2) of the Constitution of Iraq requires that the Iraqi Council of Representatives pass a law to establish an Iraqi Federal Supreme Court. No such law has ever been enacted. Iraq, therefore, does not have a constitutionally established Federal Supreme Court. The court that issued the 15 February 2022 opinion purporting to invalidate the 2007 Oil and Gas Law has no constitutional authority to do so. On the contrary, the issuance of the 2007 Oil and Gas Law was entirely authorised under the Constitution of Iraq. As such, legally, the Oil and Gas Law remains in full force.
On 2 June 2022, the Kurdistan Regional Government filed a criminal complaint against a Director General in the Baghdad Ministry of Oil for abusing his power and position by intimidating and harassing the IOCs working in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. In the view of the Kurdistan Regional Government, emails and letters sent to the IOCs undertaking work in the Kurdistan Region by that Director General were sent with the intention of intimidating the IOCs and interfering with the contractual rights of the IOCs and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The contracts entered into between the IOCs and the Kurdistan Regional Government are entirely in accordance with the 2007 Oil and Gas Law.
On 5 June 2022, the Erbil Court of Investigation ruled that the lawsuits filed in the Al Karkh commercial court against the IOCs must be brought to the Erbil Court to be examined as evidence in this criminal complaint. The Erbil Court also ruled that any lawsuits in the Al Karkh court must be delayed for this purpose, and that named criminal defendants, including the Baghdad Minister of Oil, must attend the criminal hearing in Erbil on 22 June 2022. Iraqi law (Article 26 of Criminal Procedural Law No. 23 of the year 1979) requires that civil proceedings cannot take place while a related criminal investigation is underway. In addition, Article 38 of Civil Procedural Law No. 83 of the year 1969 states that any civil proceeding against the IOCs must take place in the Kurdistan Region, where the IOCs are registered and operate.
Furthermore, on 5 June 2022 the Minister of Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Government filed a civil suit against the Baghdad Minister of Oil. In the view of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Minister is liable under applicable civil law provisions for sending emails and letters with the intention of intimidating the IOCs and interfering with the contractual rights of the IOCs and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Ministry of Natural Resources