Elders of Zarghun Shahr district and a visiting prosecutor discuss an example case in an Afghan Rule of Law conference conducted at the Zarghun Shahr district center. Courtesy Photo
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (July 6, 2012) — More than 30 local village elders and a visiting prosecutor gathered at the Zarghun Shahr district center June 28 for a three-day course in which they studied Afghan law, conducted a mock trial, and, at the request of a local judge, received instructions on Afghan family law and women’s rights.
The mock trial was the first public trial conducted in this region of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province in more than 30 years, and the request for training on family law and women’s rights is unprecedented.
The training was well received by the attendees and established the foundation for future public trials that incorporate evidence-based operations and preserve the rights of all Afghan citizens.
Haji Mohibullah, an elder from Zarghun Shahr, was excited to learn about the rights of Afghan citizens.
“I am very happy for this seminar. It is an example of the importance of education,” he said. “Education for all Afghans – including our wives and daughters – is important if we want to have a successful country.”
Attendees of the shura, the Afghan word for council, were quickly presented with an evaluation to measure their current knowledge of the Afghan legal code in the district. The results were mixed. The class instructors, members of the Joint Sector Support Program, were not optimistic at first about the class’s potential.
However, they jumped into the training and immediately began to study the Afghan Constitution and the role their local government plays in the legal system.
After the crash course on Afghan law, the class received a case study that had a civil complaint, a property dispute and a criminal charge of physical assault. They were then broken into groups and told to present a solution according to Afghan law.
The groups presented their solution and discussed the modifications from the instructor. This case study then transitioned to a mock trial where it was tried publicly. The role players were chosen by the instructor based on their experience and level of education.
The visiting prosecutor, Abdul Amini, used his skills to successfully convict the defendant, and was impressed with the performance of all the role players.
Capt. Bruce Vail, a member of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division legal team, attended the training.
“This trial is a positive step towards public trials in Paktika and a traveling prosecutor in areas that are unable to provide permanent legal support,” he said.
The course on family law caused the most excitement in the class, with many questions being raised, particularly about divorce law. Legal advisor and translator Sadeed Hakimi said that this part of the course is usually the most interactive. Though concerns were raised, the class was light-hearted and made a strong effort to understand the laws.
Overall, the conference was a positive step towards increased rule of law in Zarghun Shahr and throughout Paktika. The 4th Brigade’s rule of law team and the JSSP have already arranged to teach several more courses throughout the province.