Justice in Afghanistan: on track to legal certainty

11.03.2015 – Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have taken their toll, leaving behind a fragile justice system. GIZ is supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts to establish a functioning rule of law.

The Afghan Government laid the foundations for a modern justice system in 2004 with the adoption of a new constitution. However, many Afghans still have more confidence in informal structures than they do in their state counterparts. In the Hindu Kush region, for example, Islamic and traditional law is still practised. It is clear that major challenges remain in the transition to a modern legal system that guarantees the rule of law for all.

Since 2003, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), has been supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts to reform the justice system.

A key element of this project is training employees in the justice sector. Organised training measures and learning materials familiarise staff with the new legal system. Even the Huquq offices, which handle civil disputes in the districts, are involved in this training. ‘The participation of judicial staff in training measures ensures the law is applied in a uniform and reliable manner,’ explained project officer Bernd Messerschmidt. The project also focuses on measures intended to gain the trust of the population. Radio and television broadcasts aim to improve the civilian population’s opinion of the police. Information campaigns are also being conducted to reduce prejudices regarding the involvement of women in the police and justice system. Male employees within the justice system are also being integrated into projects to promote gender equality.

The project has already led to numerous improvements. For example, the number of lawyers in the northern city of Kunduz has risen from 12 to 70, including women, since the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) office opened there. Moreover, in prisons lawyers are now able to advise their clients in a protected area. Women can also seek legal advice at a recently established Office for Women’s Affairs. Overall, the quality of legal advice has improved as a result of the training provided.

The success of the project to promote the rule of law in Afghanistan has prompted action by other donors too. The Dutch Government has been involved in the project since 2011. GIZ will continue to support the Afghan Government’s reform efforts under this scheme until at least 2017.