The attorney general of Afghanistan is "optimistic" that the training several of his top prosecutors obtained in the recent weeks at the University of Utah will influence his country's judicial system for the better.
"They have managed to learn a lot within 20 days ... ," said Abdul Jabar Sabit, graduate of Kabul University's Faculty of Law and Afghanistan's attorney general. "In the very near future, I would like to see our prosecutors do the same job in Afghanistan as the prosecutors here do."
The only change Sabit, who spoke with media at the U. on Thursday, would make to the program in the future is to extend it longer than three weeks.
As part of the Global Justice Project of Afghanistan Judicial Reform, kicked off by the S.J. Quinney College of Law earlier this month, 16 Afghan lawyers have spent the weeks comparing and contrasting the two very different systems. They have discussed issues pertaining to rule of law, which is nonexistent in parts of Afghanistan, and other components of the judicial system such as court proceedings and crime scene investigation.
Sabit said that in his country, trial by jury is not an option, but the defense attorneys work in much the same way as they do in America to convince a judge of the innocence of their clients. Police, however, have little to do with prosecution as cases are to be handed over to prosecutors within 72 hours of initiation there.
"We need training," Sabit said. "Our 30-year war has actually destroyed everything. It has destroyed our political, social and legal institutions, including the judicial system." The country is trying to rebuild its democracy without many of the educated minds that once were part of it all.
In one province of Afghanistan, Sabit said only four of 74 acting prosecutors had obtained a legal education and subsequently become layman prosecutors. The lack of training creates problems for the war-torn country.
"No doubt we have some security problems right now, there is a war going on," Sabit said. "Without the rule of law (in some parts of the country), we cannot bring criminals to justice."
Sabit said international assistance is required to combat one of Afghanistan's biggest problems drug trafficking. Inflation caused by mass donations to the country has driven the farmers to produce large quantities of opium instead of corn and wheat to make a living.
"We must all work together to overcome the problems in Afghanistan," he said.
Other problems with the Afghan judicial system include corruption in law enforcement, Sabit said. Authorities have been known to lie in reports, confiscating drugs for themselves as well as hiding evidence, some of the same problems being dealt with on the drug front worldwide.
"If the criminal justice system does not succeed, develop, become more robust ... the entire collective strategy (involving NATO, the United States and other individual countries) will have failed," said Hiram E. Chodosh, dean of the U.'s College of Law. He said system capacities need to be built up both in the United States and in Afghanistan to be beneficial and change the path of justice.
The purpose of the U.'s program, although informational, Chodosh said, is to identify the needs of Afghanistan's judicial system and help provide suggestions and solutions. The United States has recently assumed the lead role in assisting the Afghan government to reconstruct its justice system following the disruption caused by 30 years of civil war.
Participants in the project have had interaction with various U.S. court judges, law enforcement personnel, law school faculty and class work. Their experience has also taught U.S. participants about Afghan culture and the country's legal system.
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