Newly Trained Law Students to Respond to Legal Needs in Helmand Province

UNDP Afghanistan: The workshop provides an opportunity to the law students to put their theory into practice.

Abdullah Atal is a law student at Arakozia University in Helmand province. Though in his last year, he had yet to study key aspects of practicing law, such as how to process criminal and civil cases. That is, until he attended a training session sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme’s Justice and Human Rights in Afghanistan (JHRA) project.

Atal is one of 60 students from three universities in Helmand province, who recently graduated from a 15-day workshop conducted through a partnership between UNDP, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Two sessions were held, and each trained 30 students. Fifty-four male and six female students were given 10 days of theoretical training and five days of practical training on topics including the Family Law, the Elimination of Violence against Women law, and the Criminal Procedure Code. The training sessions aimed to equip students with practical tools to take on cases for women and indigent men under the supervision of lawyers registered with the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association.

This workshop provided an opportunity to the law students to put their theory into practice. The practical work included simulation of a court of law and attending an actual hearing at the Laskhar Gah City Court.

“We saw and role-played at a simulation of proceedings at a court as well as attended an actual court hearing here at the city for a robbery case,” Mr. Atal said. “It was very helpful as it created a full picture of the events in our mind and grew our confidence.”

Highlights

  • Atal is one of 60 students from three universities in Helmand province, who recently graduated from a 15-day workshop
  • Two sessions were held, and each trained 30 students. Fifty-four male and six female students were given 10 days of theoretical training and five days of practical training on topics including the Family Law,
  • This workshop provided an opportunity to the law students to put their theory into practice.
  • Students who have completed the sessions will put their new skills into practice next year when a legal clinic opens to provide free advice to women, children and indigent men.
  • The clinic will be initiated as part of the UNDP supported Legal Aid Grant Facility, offering legal assistance to 137 individuals in Helmand in 2014.
  • Today, there are just 15 defense lawyers in a province with a population of 1.4 million people.

Acquainting the law students to their future workplace, this was an effective training they’ve ever taken, said Sultan Muhammad Safari, Vice Chancellor of Arakozai University.

“They realized how an advocate functions and what an attorney does. This exposure will definitely increase the chances of them landing a job in the field upon graduation from university,” added Mr. Safari. “We hope this training initiative is expanded and even more students are trained as this helps equip students with job skills and provides our province legal professionals to represent our people in a court of law.”

Mohammed Tayyeb, director of the provincial justice department, lauded the initiative as it could enable students to deal with actual cases. “This is a very significant step forward for people of Helmand province,” Mr. Tayyeb said. “I hope this will, in the near future, fill our need for advocates who’ll represent people accused of crimes in courts of law in Helmand.”

The workshop was a unique experience for most of the students providing them an opportunity to gain practical skills in implementing law. “Following their graduation they will provide a valuable service to community members by offering free legal advice and counseling to vulnerable people,” said Najaf Rajai, legal aid officer with JHRA.

Students who have completed the sessions will put their new skills into practice next year when a legal clinic opens to provide free advice to women, children and indigent men. The clinic will be initiated as part of the UNDP supported Legal Aid Grant Facility, offering legal assistance to 137 individuals in Helmand in 2014. Atal expects to be part of the clinic and contribute to his people. He said, “I hope to use these practical exercises in my career. I will use my experience to offer advice to vulnerable people.”

The need for legal assistance services is great. There are an estimated 1,500 people, including children, waiting to receive legal support in Helmand province. Many of them have been arrested for arbitrary or political reasons. According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), in Afghanistan “a substantial number of arbitrary detentions stem from the criminalisation of acts that do not constitute actual crimes”. ICG goes on to state that in numerous instances “citizens are detained for alleged crimes involving land disputes, debts, or family conflicts although the law expressly prohibits detention in such cases.”

The new legal clinic has the potential to help address the shortage of defense lawyers in Helmand and help more of those in need. Today, there are just 15 defense lawyers in a province with a population of 1.4 million people. 

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