Afghanistan: UNODC helps improve justice system

Afghan Delegation Workshop17 December 2009 - In recent years, Afghanistan has faced the task of building a stable, democratic society and creating an environment of respect for the rule of law after over 25 years of conflict.

The legal system enshrined in the constitution is based mainly on sharia (Islamic law). In remote, rural parts of Afghanistan, customary law prevails and justice is provided in the framework of councils of elders known as jirgas. Due to lack of comprehensive training, many judges are unfamiliar with the law and make decisions without relying on legal codes or standards.

Since 2003, international efforts have been made to reform and strengthen the Afghan criminal justice system.

UNODC is supporting the Afghan Government to draft legislation for a sound judicial system in line with international and human rights standards. As part of this support, UNODC through an MoU with the Ministry of Justice, established a working group on criminal law reform, made up of representatives from the Afghan national justice institutions and international criminal justice experts. The working group also includes representatives of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of the Interior, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and international experts.

UNODC has provided training to all parties involved in basic and advanced law enforcement and in supporting operational needs, such as logistics and basic infrastructure. The working group has been formulating a criminal procedure code for the past year that will form the backbone of the judicial system in Afghanistan.

In June this year, the working group completed its revisions on the draft criminal procedure code, with a focus on: implementing the international conventions on crime ratified by Afghanistan; adhering to human rights standards; and introducing modern tools to combat organized crime. The revisions were formally handed over to the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan.

Recently, UNODC organized a workshop of international experts and key Afghan legislators to meet with the working group members to review the revisions made to the criminal procedure code. The workshop reached a consensus on key issues such as detention procedures, investigation measures, witness protection, the handling of cooperative suspects and alternatives to detention, both prior to trial and after conviction.

As a next step, the revised criminal procedure code will be presented to the Afghan parliament for endorsement before it can be adopted as legislation. It is hoped that the criminal procedure code will contribute to strengthening the rule of law in Afghanistan, in line with current international standards.