Promoting the rule of law – justice 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)
Co-funded by: Directorate-General for International Cooperation
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Justice
Overall term: 2017 to 2021
After decades of violent conflict, the Afghan population expects not only justice but above all legal security. After the end of the Taliban regime, the country laid the foundations for a constitutional state with a new constitution in 2004. However, the judiciary is still facing major challenges in implementing the new legal system: in Afghanistan, several legal systems coexist – traditional, Islamic and parliamentary law. Many Afghans continue to rely on purely informal structures and accept legal uncertainty.
The staff of legal institutions, such as the Ministry of Justice, the legal profession and the Supreme Court, often lack sufficient qualifications to carry out their tasks. Cooperation between the competent authorities is also insufficient to guarantee equal access to justice and thus legal security for all people nationwide.
The people in the project region can make use of legal services and access is made easier, especially for women.
The project advises the government on reforming the justice sector. It helps produce teaching materials, organises training courses and creates training materials for members of the justice system. In the communities, so-called Huquqq offices – state dispute resolution and legal advice centres – frequently resolve civil disputes. The project offers training and mentoring to staff members of these Huquq offices so that they can make decisions in accordance with the applicable law and with respect for women’s rights. Through regular meetings with other representatives of the judiciary and administration, their cooperation with the Huquq offices is improving.
In Kunduz, the project helped to open the first regional office of the Afghan Bar Association. In addition, the project is establishing a comprehensive network of Huquq offices in the northern provinces.
The project is supporting the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in establishing voluntary contact points for women. These serve as contact points for women seeking advice and advise them on a voluntary basis, especially in rural areas. In addition, the project provides expertise on the development of advisory materials on subjects such as the importance of documents. Telephone hotlines have also been set up for the counselling facilities at the universities supported. By January 2020, contact points for women had been created in 87 districts in the northern provinces. Volunteers work to promote women’s rights in these contact points. In 2019, more than 100 contact points for women worked on around 2,170 cases. Around 1,260 were referred to judicial institutions. Introductory legal advice was provided in more than 910 cases.
The project also advises lawyers on starting their professional life, for example with further training and by arranging internships. It supports the legal and Sharia faculties in the northern provinces with training, practice-oriented further education and the provision of legal texts and specialist literature. In this way, in cooperation with the legal assistance departments of the Ministry of Justice, free legal advice is provided to citizens. Between November 2017 and December 2019, 765 students (almost half of them women) handled around 500 real-life legal cases and 260 inquiries under the supervision of experienced lawyers. Through additional role-play, such as moot courts and internships, students gain an insight into everyday life in legal professions.
Since 2018, the project has also been working with registered religious schools on the subject of women's rights. In cooperation with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education, the project has developed a manual on women’s rights in Islam, which is used in the further training of teachers at religious schools (madrasah) and is designed to increase acceptance of women’s rights. On the other hand, it is intended to show that women can also make use of legal services. This is still not a matter of course in many parts of Afghanistan.
Since 2018, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation (DGIS) has continued to provide combined financing of twelve million euros, and since then, work with informal dispute resolution bodies has been added as a further area of activity. Interaction between informal and formal forms of justice are the planned priority areas targeted for promoting access to legal services in general.
The number of lawyers in Kunduz has increased from twelve to 290 since the opening of the Bar Association’s office, including 65 women. Lawyers can offer legal advice in prison, in a protected space. Women have the opportunity to receive legal advice free of charge at the Office for Women’s Affairs. In Takhar, female graduates who have passed the bar have opened their own office. In Kunduz, ten new Huquq offices have opened since 2011. More and more citizens are making use of them. The number of cases handled annually has risen to 109,197 in the northern provinces supported. In comparison, in 2011, the figure was 1,439.
In total, the project has trained around 1,400 employees of governmental and non-governmental dispute resolution agencies in towns and rural areas. The project has set up legal libraries at all the universities supported and offered training for 1,709 female students. Since 2012, more than 30,000 books have been made available and over 180 training courses have been organised. Some 60 students have also received scholarships. Female law students receive support in their entry into professional life, mainly through internship programmes.
In all the provinces supported, women can turn to Gender Focal Points – volunteer counsellors – for legal issues. In Kabul, representatives of the Gender Focal Points and employees of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs take part in legal training courses and workshops. Participants are encouraged to speak up for women’s interests in public. At the initiative of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender Focal Points have already been established in some 87 communities to advise women.