Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bridging Modernity and Tradition: Rule of Law and the Search for Justice in Afghanistan

Featured Speakers: Dr. Ali Wardak, Dr. Barnett Rubin, and J Alexander Their

Afghanistan’s government is currently struggling to achieve a modern judicial system. Hoping to be able to bridge the old traditions of judiciary rule with a revamped and democratic system, the Afghan government is progressing at a slow pace. Some of the major contributors to this development, who are working closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are the governments of Afghanistan, the United States, Italy and Germany. The UNDP has steadily been working with its supporters to establish a secure living space for the Afghan population, simultaneously providing more rights to the people, with a major focus on women’s rights, rural development, and state building.

One major factor impeding this process is the lack of trust in the formal justice system. In a recently taken survey, only seventeen percent of the population stated that they trusted the current judicial system’s capacity to resolve legal problems. Furthermore, current infrastructure is weak, judges lack training, and corruption is endemic. As a result, Afghans are turning to “jirgas”- literally “councils” or “assemblies”- in order to settle criminal and legal disputes. These councils are headed by elders, who reach decisions by consensus and apply customary Afghan law. Their main focus is on reconciliation not retribution. For instance, in violation of human rights, Afghani women have been used as peace offerings in an attempt to reach a compromise between two parties.

What is being done to change mistrust in the judicial system and reliance on jirgas? Recently, the UNDP has released the Afghanistan Human Development Report of 2007, which has devised a new hybrid model that fuses the old traditions with the new. The report takes important issues into account, ranging from a new court system to newly designed judge training programs. The report hopes to bridge the jirgas with modernity. While the commission has no intention of eradicating the jirga system, it does want to work closely with the jirga to reach a fair and just conclusion for those who are on trial. This, however, means that the previous mistreatment of women, and all individuals for that matter, must come to an end. Although the plan to fuse these systems has not yet been adopted, the U.S. State Department has stated that it is trying to implement a new model based on this hybrid theory.

Sponsor: U.S. Institute of Peace

Location: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 1200 17th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036

Date: September 28, 2007

Time: 1:00-2:30

Approximate Number of Attendees: 30

Intern Attending: David Bravo

No comments: