Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NATO Review: Law, order and the elections in Afghanistan

This week NATO has released its new NATO Review dedicated to the law, order and the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan, which you can access here.
What makes this Review an interesting to read that it is not one more piece, where NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is praised for its work and achievements, but reveals current challenges and threats to the establishment of so desired stability and peace.
I would like to highlight an article published by Sari Kouvo, where she perfectly describes the current state of affairs in Afganistan concerning the rule of law, or more correctly to say, absence of it from the part of the cenrafl gov-t. She describes the current processes as "institutionalization of impunity".
I find the heading "Rule of Law deficits as Security Challenge: 'Touching the Surface' " as a very pricise, giving us the insight into the story.
Here are some interesting extracts:
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 (...)
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 failure to exclude the leaders of armed militias, many of whom have known records of gross human rights abuses, from government structures and the failure to ensure a comprehensive disarmament process have further weakened good governance and rule of law. The presence of leaders who perceive themselves to be above or beyond the law in the government has entrenched the void between myth and reality in the internationally-supported rule of law reforms in Afghanistan. (...)
The Afghan government’s only presence among large parts of Afghanistan’s poor and illiterate populations has been:
  1. Prison chiefs like my friend from the north
  2. Corrupt police officers ready to harass if they do not receive their bribe
  3. Judges whose decision depend on the will of the local strongman rather than on law and
  4. Unofficial local governors who find it convenient to serve not only as governor, but also as police chief, prosecutor and judge in their district.

Not surprisingly, these patterns of corruption and crime have undermined the legitimacy of the government and are contributing to growing insecurity: a citizen that cannot trust the government is unlikely to defend and support it.

Much emphasis is currently put on the upcoming electoral cycle and its power to restore the Afghan government’s legitimacy. Though many observers warn that the elections are unlikely to be free and fair, the hope is that they will be at least credible. Elections, enabling citizens to choose their political leadership, can certainly be a powerful tool for legitimacy

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