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NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Supreme Court justices from four of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces gathered for the first time at Jalalabad Courthouse to further their knowledge in law.
Judge advocate generals of Headquarters and Headquarter Company, Task Force Bastogne, used this opportunity to distribute much needed legal books on the penal code during the Continuing Legal Education session June 5 – June 10.
“A Continuing Legal Education for the judges of the Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman provinces, is a program to help judges, lawyers to keep up to date on the latest changes to the law,” said U.S. Army Capt. Hana Rollins of Woodbridge,
Va., judge advocate rule of law attorney. “It ensures that they understand what is going on and still be relevant to anything that might have happened since they went to law school because there are always constant changes in the legal field.”
Some of the topics reviewed in the CLE were the Afghanistan penal code, criminal traffic laws, civil procedures, violence against women, deeds, land disputes and how to conduct a fair trial.
“We need stability and security in Afghanistan,” said Supreme Court Judge, Rawofi. “To have justice we need professionals like judges to keep getting continuing legal education.”
Getting the judges together proved to be a difficult task for the JAG, but they were determined to provide a fair trial for the people of Afghanistan
“What we were trying to do was have a conference of each province, but because the Supreme Court justices have very busy schedules, it’s hard to get them to come down and do this often,” said Rollins. “This was the first one of its kind where we had all [the judges] come to one location and then have the top people instruct [them].”
Though this program is new to judicial leaders in Afghanistan, it is the mirror image of a program in the United States.
“In the U.S., the American Bar Association also has a Continuing Legal Education session, this is the Afghanistan version of that,” said Rollins. “In this event, this is the first time we had Supreme Court justices instruct the judges. We invited 50 judges include five defence attorneys from Jalalabad, 20 from Nangarhar, 10 from Kunar, 10 from Laghman and five from Nuristan. Four additional students came from the Supreme Court voluntarily, they are probably future judges.”
The court still faces a continual threat of corruption. One of the major threats is various figureheads using bribes to lighten or omit a sentence.
“Some sub-governors are interfering with our decisions,” said Kunar Judge Ansarullah Mawlawizada. “This should not be allowed. When a judge does not agree with a sub-governor that judge is reassigned to a new district, if we remove a judge because he is bad, we should prosecute him.”
Judicial members stressed the importance of practicing law throughout the conference. Without it, the judges feared that there would be little to no improvements to a better Afghanistan.
“We should not be afraid of any insurgents, we should just apply the law and defend Afghanistan against the enemies of Afghanistan,” said Deputy Governor Mohammad Alam Ishaqzai. “To have peace in Afghanistan, we must apply the law.”
Though the results of JAG’s endeavour may not show immediately, Rollins believes the session has much promise for the country.
“If you can get a good group of judges who are willing to go back, who are motivated, excited about doing their job, and then going out and conducting fair public trials that will spread like wild fire. You just have to keep pushing it to make sure they will carry it out. So I think it was very successful but the benefits for Afghanistan will be long term.”
Getting judges excited about doing their jobs depends upon their security. Judges often find themselves faced with a choice: uphold the law and face political harassment, or become influenced by corrupted officials and letting the unjust go free.
“I am concerned for safety for judges. If judges are not safe, how can we apply the law?” said Mawlawizada. “We are scared for our safety while traveling to our districts and offices.”
Developing judges with the courage to conducted fair trials also plays into one of TF Bastogne’s ultimate goals.
“Our goal is to try to get public trials to avoid corruption; you can’t pay a judge off when the whole public is listening to the facts of the case,” said Rollins. “Our goal is to make them to make it public so we can step out of the picture and let the Afghans take care of their own judicial system.”
“We are not trying to influence their decision, but let the people hear it so it is a fair public trail to minimize corruption,” said Rollins.
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