October 13, 2009 |  4 comments |  Print this Article  Your Opinion  

Sari Kouvo

Topic Rule of Law: Crucial for Security

Sari Kouvo: An increased focus on the technical aspects of rule of law reform will not break the negative spiral of the Afghan public’s declining trust in the state and increased insecurity without a political will to tackle institutionalized impunity.


Visiting a provincial prison in northern Afghanistan some years ago, I met a friendly and engaging prison chief. He told me about the challenges he was facing with corruption amongst the police, prosecutors and judges and how bad he felt about prolonged pre-trial detention and his administration's shortcomings.

He also emphasized how much he appreciated the cooperation with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and was eager to show me the refurbishment done with PRT support. In the middle of the conversation the prison chief had to take a call.

After my translator and I left the meeting, my translator informed me that the telephone conversation was about how much bribe a certain prisoner should be expected to pay for his release.

Since the Presidential elections in 2004, I have had the opportunity to observe the international community's military, political and developmental engagement in Afghanistan. As a lawyer, I have been particularly interested in the role of law (or the lack thereof) in the shift from conflict to (at best) awkward peace.

During this period, common perceptions about state-building have changed from as ‘almost on track, give or take a few major challenges' to ‘almost failed, but possibly savable'. Over the same period of time, the common perception has shifted from rule of law reform being a marginal issue to becoming the issue to be addressed if the state-building process in Afghanistan is to be saved.

My experience with the prison chief is a perfect illustration of the failure of the rule of law reform strategies deployed in the first years of the state-building process: ad hoc and donor-driven reform projects focusing on some law reforms, short-term capacity-building and refurbishing infrastructure. These efforts affected nothing but the surface of the Afghan security and justice sectors, while a culture of corruption and impunity was allowed to grow stronger. Depending on who the interlocutor is, the security and justice sectors show their different facets. The well-meaning foreigner with her driver and translator and the Afghan peasant who is claiming back his land from the local commander face very different realities of (in)justice.

The past two years have seen increased focus on rule of law and have resulted in the emergence of new strategies and actors.

  • The Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) includes a comprehensive strategy for justice reform
  • The World Bank has been supporting the establishment of a justice window in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF)
  • The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) in cooperation with the UN Development Program (UNDP) have been beefing up its rule of law unit through establishing the provincial justice initiative and
  • Troop contributing nations to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been developing justice components in their security sector and development initiatives.


When interviewing representatives of the international community about the increased focus on promoting rule of law in Afghanistan, one interviewee noted that the international community is finally in a situation where it can ‘connect all the dots' and overcome the shortcomings of previous reform initiatives. My meetings and discussions with Afghan legal practitioners show these reforms in a different light; the ‘dots' may connect, but the map does not correspond with reality.

Continue reading the full article in NATO Review.

Sari Kouvo is Head of Programme, International Centre for Transitional Justice Senior Analyst, Afghanistan Analysts Network. Her previous positions include Human Rights and Rule of Law Advisor to the European Union Special Representative for Afghanistan and researcher on Afghanistan at Amnesty International.

For more NATO Review articles on law, order and the elections in Afghanistan click here.

 

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Member deleted

October 14, 2009

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I like this comment! What's this?
India as a state that has institutionalized crime to an extent barely considered possible (a particular ethno-linguist group specializes in this) then presents a case-study of possibilities. Compared to the Indian state's institutionalized crime (it is a criminal state) and its holding nuclear weapons including its claims to a seat in the UN permanent Security Council - Afghanistan comes across as rather tame. One does not think that Afghanistan can be considered a problem state. It merely has to evolve to the level of its South Asian neighbour to be considered very civil indeed! One is not very sure whether another South Asian state - Pakistan betters India in this feat or sets a precedent. But South Asia has examples that act as good precedents for states like Afghanistan not to worry too much over international acceptances.
Tags: | rule of law | security | precedents | meanings |
 
Unregistered User

October 15, 2009

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"Rule of Law/ Crucial for Security", when put in context with Afghanistan, can be very explosive, especially when you are the perpetrator.
Afghanistan's recorded history begins in 330BC with the rise of "Sikandar" and continues to modern times. So, the proposed "law" are actually whose commandments, which then need to be enforced to satisfy whose objectives.
And who are the people who put themselves above this law in judgement.
Bribing of a prison guard to demonstrate the existence of government corruption seems a bit helpless in argument.
When one puts corruption on this band between solecism and vulgarism. it will perhaps
be more convenient to accept that governance without human greed is nonexisting.
It just cannot become "societal quicksand."
About Afghanistan.......
Islam played perhaps the key role in the formation of Afghanistan's society.Even warrior as formidable as Genghis Khan did not uproot Islamic civilzation; within two generations, his heirs had become Muslims. As an independent state, its very existance has largely been determined by its geographic location at the crossroads of Central, West and South Asia,
" the roundabout of the acient world".Most of Afghanistan's history took place upon the Iranian plateau as a whole. The Aryen people left their languages ( Pashto, Persian, etc.)
and their culture as a legacy.
An area of heterogeneuos groups without single political entity until the reign of Ahmed Shah Durrani, who in 1747 founded the monarchy that ruled until 1973.
In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan lay between the expanding might of the Russian and British empires, both of which experienced humiliating defeat in 1989 and 1919
respectively.
In 2000 Abdur Rahmann Khan ( the " Iron Amir"), after twenty years of rule, looked at the events of the past century and wondered, how his country, which stood" like a Lion between these Hypocrites ( Britain and Russia) could stand in the midway of the stones without being crushed to dust"...
The plight of the Afghan Woman is very indicative for the soul of the country and a future it deserves:
There was :
Malalai from the small village of Khig, who helped to defeat the British....
Soraya Tarzi, very influential woman in the Muslim world at the time...
King Amanullah's sister , Kobra, who created the organization for women's protection...
Fisrt secondary femal school was estabilshed in 1941...
1959, women were allowed to unveil...
1964, the constituion gave women right to vote...
1972 Zohra Yusuf Daoud was crowned as the first " Miss Afghanistan"..
1984, Khatol Mohammadzai became Afghansitan's first paratrooper and later a General in the Afghan National Army...............and much more.

I think it is important to accept that ancient cultures already have rules
for a society they selected to live in and for the values they hold and cherish..
A capitalistic world will most of the time not be able to comprehend, as we are ourselves quite lacking in understanding the real meaning of values......
It must be quite embarrassing for stronger and more powerful nations to kick around smaller nations " to make a point" or to illustrate their objectives.

HRF





Tags: | athens/afghanistan |
 
Björn Michael  Wannhoff

October 20, 2009

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Thank for this insightful article plus comments.
However, I have disagree with the previous comment to some extend: The nature of the system of law, which in Western terminology is called corruption, is not only based "ancient culture" or "values". It is an economic system that follows economic rules. If one wants to chance this system, the economic relationships and dependencies also need to chanced. Otherwise the function of law system will stay the same: This can be observed in the Central Asian republics.
 
Unregistered User

August 3, 2012

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Bribe? Wonderful that the poor heathen finally evolved to a level where he could apply modern free market philosophy against state centralism. Truly wonderful! We Westerners deride the word 'corruption' as anti-neoliberal propaganda. Hail the oligarchs, and let's all hope the Republicans spend all the tax revenue on cigarettes and oil wars!!

Spectacular commentary from HRF, I'll be looking out for more from him on the web.
 

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