Promoting the rule of law – Rights and security for all Afghans
Title: Promotion of the Rule of Law in Afghanistan
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Justice
Overall term: 2003 to 2018
Following decades of violent conflict, the Afghan people now expect their state to assert the rule of law, as well as delivering legal certainty. After the fall of the Taliban regime, the country laid the foundations for a state subject to the rule of law, with the passing of a new constitution in 2004. However, the judiciary still faces great challenges in establishing the new legal order. Several legal systems exist in parallel in Afghanistan: traditional, Islamic and parliamentary law. Many Afghans continue to place their trust in purely informal structures, and accept legal uncertainty as the price for this.
The staff of the judicial institutions, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court, are often inadequately qualified to perform their work. The responsible authorities are still not sufficiently coordinated to guarantee equal access to the law and therefore legal certainty for all citizens throughout the country.
Access to legal services in the project region is improved, particularly for women.
The project advises the government on the reform of the justice sector. It supports the development of teaching materials, organises training and produces training material for employees of the judicial structures. In the districts, state-run centres for arbitration and legal advice known as Huquq offices often settle civil disputes. The project provides training and mentoring services for the staff of these offices, enabling them to take decisions in line with applicable legislation and in full consideration of women’s rights. Thanks to regular meetings involving the Huquq offices and other representatives of the judiciary and administration, cooperation between them is continually improving.
With the support of the project, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association has opened its first regional office in Kunduz. At the same time, the project is working to establish a comprehensive network of Huquq offices across the northern provinces.
The project is supporting the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the establishment of voluntary points of contact that provide consultation to women who are in need of advice, primarily in rural districts. The project offers advice on the development of consultation material. There are also plans to set up a telephone hotline to advice services at universities.
The project assists lawyers at the outset of their careers, for instance through training courses or internship placements. It also provides support to law and sharia faculties in the northern provinces, in the form of training and practical courses as well as access to legal texts and specialised literature. In legal clinics with the support of practitioners, students at the faculties can work on real cases. Through role-playing exercises (in the form of moot courts, for example) and work experience placements they obtain insights into the everyday work of legal professionals.
Since 2018, the project has also been working with registered religious schools on the introduction of classes on women’s rights. In this regard, the project provides advice on the preparation of suitable training material and promotes in-service training for teachers at religious schools.
It is hoped that co-financing by the Netherlands will continue. The focus of the planned support is interaction between informal and formal justice with the aim of improving access to justice in general.
Since the opening of the office of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, the number of lawyers in Kunduz has risen from 12 to 114, 28 of whom are women. Lawyers can now provide legal advice in protected spaces inside prisons. Legal advice is also available to women free of charge in the Office for Women’s Affairs, and in Takhar, a group of women law graduates have opened their own office. In Kunduz six new Huquq offices have opened since 2011. Increasing numbers of citizens are taking advantage of the services of these offices. The number of cases being processed each year in the supported northern provinces increased from 1,439 in 2011 to more than 61,000 in 2017.
Almost 13,000 male and female police officers from the northern provinces have attended training in legal matters since 2012. Since 2013, more than 760 conflict resolution talks have taken place between representatives of communities and the police. One third of those taking part in these discussion forums are women. Local people can use more than 50 complaints boxes to raise cases anonymously for the discussion forums. The police and public prosecutors have benefited from more than 530 training courses on aspects of their everyday work. Surveys have confirmed the citizens’ considerably heightened degree of confidence in the police force.
The project has set up libraries of law at all the universities it supports, and has delivered training to more than 1,000 female students. In all, over 30,000 books have been provided since 2012, and more than 150 training courses organised. In addition, around 60 students have received study grants. The project supports female students of law as they enter their professional careers, above all through internship programmes.
In the provinces of Badakhshan and Balkh, women can seek advice from special counsellors, while in Kabul, members of the umbrella association of women’s organisations and staff from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs participate in legal training and workshops. The organisers educate them and encourage them to take a public stance on women’s issues. As part of an initiative by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, voluntary points of contact to provide advice to women have already been established in around 20 districts.