Promoting the rule of law – Rights and security for all Afghans
Title: Promoting 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 2017
Following decades of violent conflict, the Afghan people now expect their state to assert the rule of law, as well as delivering justice. 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 laws. 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 security for all citizens throughout the country.
The judiciary and police force act in conformity with the constitution. The government passes laws and reforms that are in line with the constitution. Citizens throughout the country are guaranteed legal security.
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 valid laws 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.
In order to raise the level of trust in the police within the population, the project organises exchanges between representatives of the police force and local communities. It uses newspaper supplements, brochures, posters, radio and TV broadcasts, and theatre performances to inform people about the availability of legal advice and access to the law.
Negative attitudes about women working in the judiciary and police force are addressed through educational campaigns that highlight the opportunities such employment offers to women and their families.
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 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 and work experience placements they obtain insights into the everyday work of legal professionals.
Since 2015, the project has been supporting civil society organisations with advice and dialogue events addressing children’s rights, information on legal rights and combating corruption. This serves to improve their cooperation with state bodies. They are learning to organise themselves more effectively and to get their issues heard.
The Netherlands and Finland are co-financiers of this project. Its main focus is on the promotion of access to the law for women and for the people living in Kunduz Province.
Since the opening of the office of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, the number of lawyers in Kunduz has risen from 12 to 114. 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 trust the police force.
The project has set up libraries of law at all the universities it supports, and has delivered training to more than 500 female students. In all, it has provided more than 30,000 books since 2012, and organised more than 150 training courses. In addition, around 60 students have received study grants. The project supports female students of law as they enter the 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. Women who have been victims of domestic violence or who need support for other reasons can seek advice from a 24-hour hotline.
Women in Badakhshan and Balkh Provinces can receive advice from special contact persons. In Kabul, members of the Afghan Women’s Network and Ministry of Women’s Affairs staff are taking part in continuing legal training and workshops. The organisers inform these people and encourage them to take a public stand on women’s issues. Women who have suffered from domestic violence or who require other support can call a 24-hour hotline to receive advice.