Rule of Law in Afghanistan

Since November 2001, the Rule of Law Program (ROL) has been directly engaged in developing frameworks for establishing rule of law in Afghanistan. In December 2001, ROL assembled a high-level group of experts on Afghan law and post-conflict administration of justice and produced a report titled Rebuilding Afghanistan: A Framework for Establishing Security and the Rule of Law. One provision of the December 2001 Bonn Peace Accords between Afghanistan's warring factions was based directly on these findings and recommendations.

Since November 2001, the Rule of Law Program (ROL) has been directly engaged in developing frameworks for establishing rule of law in Afghanistan.

In December 2001, ROL assembled a high-level group of experts on Afghan law and post-conflict administration of justice and produced a report titled Rebuilding Afghanistan: A Framework for Establishing Security and the Rule of Law. One provision of the December 2001 Bonn Peace Accords between Afghanistan's warring factions was based directly on these findings and recommendations.

Existing copies of Afghanistan's pre-Taliban legal codes had been destroyed and were inaccessible to the nascent Afghan justice institutions and their personnel. In 2002, ROL, with other international partners, helped the Afghan Ministry of Justice organize an effort to locate, re-assess, reproduce, and distribute these codes.

In 2003, ROL brought over 20 senior Afghan justice officials and legal experts to USIP for a four-day workshop on the organization and future of the Afghan justice system, with a focus on the interaction between its various component institutional stakeholders. The participants adopted an extensive set of recommendations for the reform of the legal system.
PDF Download the symposium conclusions | PDF 55KB

In March 2004, USIP published a Special Report, Establishing the Rule of Law in Afghanistan, based on extensive field research and over 70 interviews conducted by USIP staff in Afghanistan and the U.S.

More recently, USIP has worked to advance access to justice for all in Afghanistan. In 2011, USIP released this memorandum which sets forth guidelines and suggestions for future programming in Traditional Dispute Resolution (TDR) that reflects USIP's recent consultations with women in civil society and their respective organizations and its research on interactions between formal and traditional justice actors. These recommendations are meant to mitigate TDR practices that are harmful to women and prevent recognition or reinforcement of them by official actors.

Currently, USIP and its partner organizations have and continue to work in 15 districts across nine provinces, including Paktia, Nangarhar, Kunduz, Takhar, Kabul, Uruzgan, Nimroz, Helmand, and Herat. Click to see a map of where we work.

The ROL Program recently established an office in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Kabul office works closely with USIP staff in Washington, D.C., and is currently coordinating the following projects: 

Progress on Dispute Resolution in Southeastern Afghanistan

Despite all the negative news coming out of Afghanistan, there is a small victory worth celebrating. The U.S. Institute of Peace is currently funding the Commission on Conflict Mediation Program (CCM) in Khost Province in Afghanistan. Composed of six tribal elders, the Commission provides an alternative dispute resolution mechanism akin to Western out-of-court arbitration. During its first 18 months, the CCM has worked on 31 conflicts; 18 cases have been resolved; 10 cases are currently being processed; and 3 have been referred to the provincial court. This marks a success for USIP's rule of law work in Afghanistan, as arbitration services, now provided free of charge, are being utilized and working. Read a report[PDF] about this story from the Tribal Liaison Office (TLO) which was created in 2003, to facilitate, with USIP's help, peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

Relations between State and Non-State Justice Systems in Afghanistan

This project aims to provide guidance to international and national policymakers on the role of non-state justice systems. Since 2003, USIP has been directly engaged in developing policy on this issue with state and non-state actors. Throughout 2007 and 2008 USIP worked closely with the Afghan government, UN, and international partners to craft an effective policy for the National Justice Sector Strategy (NJSS) that would recognize the importance of the non-state justice sector and the need for the state to develop ties with it. Together with the Afghan government and other partners in the sector, USIP has also launched pilot projects in four districts of Afghanistan focused on establishing concrete relationships between the formal and informal systems. The project will help  develop models for collaboration between the two systems to improve the delivery of justice, resolve disputes, and protect rights. | transcript Read more

Enhancing Capabilities for Transitional Justice in Afghanistan

With a decades-long legacy of mass crimes and human rights abuses, the Afghan government adopted a five-point Action Plan for Transitional Justice in 2005 calling for investigation of past crimes, recognition of victims' suffering, and accountability for perpetrators. Recognizing the political difficulty of addressing past crimes committed in some cases by officials presently in power, USIP is working to facilitate implementation of the Action Plan through several projects.

First, USIP is working with the Afghan government, the UN, international donors and NGOs to develop policy recommendations to ensure that candidates with links to illegal armed groups are not permitted to run for office in Afghanistan's next elections, scheduled for August of 2009. In April, the United Nations appointed Scott Worden, one of USIP’s senior Rule of Law advisors, to serve as a Commissioner on the Election Complaints Commission (ECC). The ECC has three international and two Afghan members, and has exclusive jurisdiction to decide all electoral disputes for the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections.

USIP is also working with national and international NGOs to develop sound documentation practices that will enable victims and relevant bodies to access information about past human rights abuse. Recognizing the central importance of Islam in Afghan life, USIP is also working with Islamic institutions and legal scholars to develop thinking about how Islamic legal principles address the issues of truth-seeking, accountability, compensation, and forgiveness in relation to mass abuse. And finally, through its Grants Program, USIP is providing funds to local Afghan organizations to implement their own innovative ideas working with grass roots constituencies in the search for justice and reconciliation.

Criminal Law Reform and Combating Serious Crimes in Afghanistan

USIP Working on Law Reform in AfghanistanEfforts have been underway to reform and strengthen the Afghan criminal justice system since 2003. The criminal justice system will play a critical role in restoring order, governmental legitimacy and protecting citizens rights. A permanent legal framework is now being put into place through a consultative process involving Afghan institutions and the international community. To aid in the law reform process, USIP, in partnership with the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), organized a workshop on law reform in Afghanistan held at ISISC's headquarters in Siracusa, Italy from April 22-28, 2008 for Afghan policymakers, Afghan and international members of the country's Criminal Law Committee, and comparative criminal law experts. This workshop focused on criminal procedure reform challenges and issues, addressing serious crimes challenges through criminal law reform, and resource needs when implementing new laws. In 2009 a Dari translation of Combating Serious Crimes was published and distributed to  the Executive, Legislative, Judicial and other key ministires in the Afghan government, as well as other national and international actors.

Supreme Court Reform

In 2006, a completely new slate of Supreme Court justices was nominated by President Karzai and approved by the parliament. This new Supreme Court presents a tremendous opportunity for constructive changes in the Afghan judicial system. USIP will organize a series of workshops, including a two-week study tour for some Supreme Court members and staff, bringing them together with international experts on the procedural and jurisprudential elements of constitutional review. This will include working with the Afghan Supreme Court to define their constitutional review function, and to improve the constitutional review process employed by the Supreme Court. USIP will then work with the court to transform the results of these efforts into the laws and policies of the court that regulate the judicial function.

Networking Rule of Law Practitioners

The International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPROL) is an online knowledge network connecting more than 1,100 rule of law practitioners around the globe in an effort to share knowledge and turn lessons learned into lessons applied. INPROL has focused specially on enhancing information exchange among the rule of law community in Afghanistan, focusing on linking those implementers and donors working on rule of law in the field across different institutions and with those who have previously worked on rule of law projects in Afghanistan over the past five years. Currently nearly 170 INPROL members have Afghanistan experience.

Afghanistan Working Group

One of USIP's hallmark roles is acting as a convener of disparate actors for the purpose of education and discussion of policy options. USIP's Afghanistan Working Group, co-chaired by Dr. Barnett Rubin and J Alexander Thier, serves as a hub for top experts and U.S. government personnel working on that mission. The Afghanistan Working Group has hosted U.S. and foreign ambassadors and envoys, Afghan government ministers, Afghan and other foreign parliamentarians, as well as analysts from a variety of organizations. Each meeting hosted by the working group provides an opportunity for participants to learn more about a specific subject, as well as creates an informal space for interagency and inter-group communication and collaboration to improve approaches and strategies in Afghanistan.


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