Wednesday, November 17, 2010

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW REPORT Reforming Afghanistan’s Broken Judiciary

Kabul/Brussels, 17 November 2010: The Afghan government and the international community must prioritise the rule of law, which should be the primary pillar of a successful counter-insurgency strategy.

Reforming Afghanistan’s Broken Judiciary,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns of the catastrophic lack of justice in Afghanistan. Judicial institutions have shrunk to near non-existence and many courts are inoperable or understaffed. International Crisis Group urges the Afghan government and the international community to implement reforms that will guarantee the fundamental rights of protection and justice for the Afghani population.

“Afghanistan’s justice system is in a disastrous state of disrepair”, says Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. “At the highest level of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has emerged as both bully pulpit for Islamists and proxy ballot box for President Karzai, supporting him with little regard for the constitution”.

The legal institutions have been deeply affected by the political paroxysms of more than three decades of conflict. At the provincial level, the highly centralised system has been unable to answer the demands of the population across difficult and often inaccessible terrain. The weakness of the judiciary has decisively destabilised the country.

The Afghan government and the international community must prioritise the rule of law. It should be the primary pillar of a vigorous counterinsurgency strategy that privileges the protection of rights equally alongside the protection of life. Developing a concrete and dynamic understanding of deficits in the system is the first step toward crafting an effective strategy for reform. Building a human capacity is essential. Providing real security and comprehensive training and education for judges, prosecutors, and other judicial staff is crucial to sustaining the system as a whole.

To restore its legitimacy, the Afghan government will have to work much harder to eliminate corruption, ensure fair trial standards and curtail arbitrary detentions. The international community must recognise that this is not a quick fix, nor is it an issue to be ignored: investing in the rule of law requires long-term commitment. If the U.S. is to have any hope of success in Afghanistan, restoration of judicial institutions must be at the front and centre of the strategy aimed at stabilising the country.

Further, U.S. and NATO actions must conform to national and international laws, including an end to arbitrary detentions. Extrajudicial actions by the U.S. and its coalition partners against Afghan citizens have distorted the justice system and are fuelling the insurgency. The international community needs to ensure that the transition from U.S. to Afghan control of detention facilities is smooth, transparent and adheres to international law.

“The only way forward is to protect and advance the rule of law”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “But if President Karzai’s government continues to drag its feet on judicial reform, it is very likely that it will become a victim of its own failure to act and the country will be plunged deeper into violent conflict”.

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