Increasing Citizens’ Legal Certainty: Public Consultations for New Law on Conciliation
Several legal systems exist in Afghanistan – traditional law, Islamic law and constitutional law. Instead of relying on formal courts, conflicting parties often refer their cases to informal local dispute resolution bodies, Jirgas and Shuras. Their decisions are based on traditional law and are not legally binding, causing legal uncertainties. Therefore, the MoJ is currently working on a law that shall enable the formal recognition of informal bodies’ decisions if they meet basic constitutional standards. Particularly citizens living in rural areas where formal legal institutions are often absent will profit.
The head of Takhar’s Department of Women’s Affairs, Mr Hashmatullah Hasham, commented: “I appreciate such consultation events. It is our job to implement rules and regulations. We know the problems on the ground and can point to shortcomings in the new law. The MoJ sharing these important legislative documents for consultation enables the ministry to draft a realistic and comprehensive law.”
It was the fourth and final consultation in Afghanistan’s north. Representatives of various formal and informal legal actors, such as the Directorate of Justice, the Department of Women’s Affairs and the Department of Haj and Religious Affairs participated. In addition, civil society actors including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and influential elders with vast experience in mediating disputes attended the event. In total, more than 160 participants, including almost 60 women, provided input. An employee of Balkh’s Huquq directorate, Mr Abdul Rauf Bahrami, emphasised: “Consultations ensure that the new law is not only just, but also practicable.”
Current public consultations focus on procedural details regarding case referrals between formal and informal justice actors and the registration of decisions made by Jirgas and Shuras by formal courts. These details have major implications for the final law’s efficiency in achieving its objective – increasing legal certainty for Afghan citizens, especially women and children. Further public consultations shall take place in Afghanistan’s south in the weeks to come.
The programme Promotion of the Rule of Law in Afghanistan (RoL) is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme aims at ensuring the rule of law, a well-functioning judicial system and legal security in Afghanistan. To ensure legal security for all citizens, RoL has been supporting so-called Huquq bureaus which handled more than 80,000 civil cases since 2013. In the same time, to support higher legal education, RoL provided more than 30,000 books to law and sharia faculties, implemented more than 150 courses on legal topics for students and lecturers and awarded more than 60 students with scholarships. The programme also emphasises promoting women’s rights and strengthening their access to justice as well as the job market.