KABUL, Afghanistan (April 10, 2010) – More than 20 Farah province judges, prosecutors, members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and members of the Ministry of Justice participated in the first of a three-day seminar focusing on the Constitution of Afghanistan and the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAWL), April 3.
The seminar was conducted by Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP) personnel and hosted by the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
The three-day seminar was aimed to equip Afghan’s who are working within the judicial system, to better understand the constitution and to implement rule of law in their designated career fields. Two of the three days were concentrated on EVAWL, a new law imposing strict penalties for women forced into marriage, marrying women under the age of 16, and for physical abuse towards women.
“A lot of times the community does not understand what the law is,” said Sheila Weirth, Justice Advisor for JSSP.
The seminar is an opportunity to raise awareness and shed light about EVAWL to the law makers and law enforcers in the province. The law also requires every ministry working for the Afghan government to promote awareness and educate the community about the law.
Participants were given verbal and visual lessons, a chance to share with each other experiences and lessons learned, and mock scenarios applicable to real life cases in Afghanistan.
Weirth’s hope is that participants in the seminar will share the information gained with their peers and colleagues, therefore spreading knowledge of EVAWL and the general laws under the GIROA constitution.
JSSP and the Farah PRT also visited with the Farah Provincial Chief Judge Abdul Hanif Ubiad and Chief Prosecutor Abdul Ghafar to assess the current judicial situation in the province.
The meeting with Ubiad and Ghafar was a key opportunity for JSSP and the PRT to observe the process of law in the province, and resulted in a stronger relationship between government officials and coalition forces.
”We received a very warm reception,” said Weith, “The prosecutor (Ghafar) here is very impressive and is a well educated man.”
Maintaining security and prosecuting members of the Taliban has remained a top priority among judiciaries in the Farah Province. However, it is the day-to-day rule of law that has been a tough challenge for judges and prosecutors alike. According to Ubiad, most criminal activity in the city of Farah consists of land disputes, tribal disputes that often lead to revenge killings, and business deals gone badly. In other parts of the province, drug production and trafficking continues to be a significant hurdle for Afghan law enforcement officers.
In addition, appointing defense attorneys for suspects has been a struggle for the province. Currently there are no defense attorneys for the entire province. The suspect does have the opportunity to defend themselves, but witnesses and arresting officials are rarely available or present during the trial. Hiring defense attorneys has remained a high priority for Ubiad, and Weirth is very confident there will be more within the next few years.
Despite these obstacles, Ghafar is more than optimistic about the future security and stability of Farah.
“Compared to six months ago, security is much better,” Ghafar said, “We have no tensions regarding security at this time.”
To assist with the justice system, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matt Schaefer, rule of law advisor to the PRT commander and a practicing lawyer in the commercial-sector, is committed to assisting in diagnosing problems within the legal system to establish a secure and developed justice system.
“The good news is they have a functioning framework. They have a foundation we can build on,” said Lieutenant Schaefer, “Rule of law is a critical aspect to their success and it is essential to the PRT’s mission.”
Support from the PRT and JSSP will continue to focus on sustainable solutions to the justice system in Farah. Continuing efforts of meetings, seminars, and training events for those working in the justice system will provide long-term successes, rather than temporary solutions.