The justice sector was largely dismantled during the 30-year civil war, leaving justice sector institutions unable to address the needs of the Afghan population and eroding public trust. Despite significant support from the international community, there are still structural weaknesses, institutional corruption and insufficient capacity.
Public perception surveys also indicate that customary justice systems are often considered more in line with local concepts of justness and fairness, as well as being more affordable, effective and accessible than the state services. However, informal justice systems do not have a well-defined mandate and often violate human rights principles, especially regarding the rights of women, which continue to suffer high levels of abuse and violence.
Limited legal awareness of rights, whether under sharia law, state law or international human rights law, makes it difficult to claim rights and hold justice providers to account.
While Afghanistan is party to seven international human rights treaties, the implementation of these treaties into the national legislative framework is far from complete. Many laws still contain inconsistencies or discriminate against vulnerable and marginalized groups.
UNDP works to build the capacity of Afghan justice sector institutions and to ensure access to justice for women, children, prisoners and detainees.
Providing legal aid and raising awareness
The Legal Aid Grant Facility, which UNDP helped establish in 2013, offers legal aid to around 1,000 prisoners, detainees, women and children every year across eight provinces. UNDP is working to expand this service to a further six provinces and to make sure the Facility covers those cases that lawyers from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid Department cannot take up. We are also helping to improve monitoring and evaluation, case allocation mechanisms and the development of a database to get better insight into the demand and provision of legal aid services all over Afghanistan.
This work will be complemented by legal awareness raising activities, which mainly focus on vulnerable groups at provincial and district level, such as radio and billboard campaigns, as well as visits from law clinic students to rural districts to give legal advice and promote legal awareness.
Promoting coordination in the justice sector, especially for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW)
UNDP supports coordination among justice sector institutions through the design of standard operating procedures and a sector-wide manual on EVAW. We also support the recently established pilot EVAW Court in Kabul. This court handles cases of violence against women, and combines a punitive approach with support for victims.
Building capacity to draft legislation, ensure human rights compliance and reform the justice sector
UNDP supports the Ministry of Justice’s legislative drafting department and the Human Rights Support Unit, with a special focus on bringing Afghanistan’s national legal framework into line with its international human rights obligations. This includes the revision of laws with an important human rights dimension, such as the Family Law, the Law on Conciliation of Civil Disputes, the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. Furthermore, the project will support justice and judicial sector reform, taking the Rule of Law Indicators Study (conducted under a previous UNDP project) as a baseline for the functioning of justice sector institutions.
What we have accomplished so far?
- 100 women and 616 detainees and prisoners provided with legal aid by a certified defense lawyer in 2016, including 191 cases in remote areas.
- Pilot court for the Elimination of Violence Against Women established in Kabul, following UNDP advocacy. This Court has so far handled 158 cases of violence against women.
- Report on progress in the implementation of human rights recommendations published by HRSU, promoting the inclusion of human rights into national legislation.
- Draft Justice and Judicial Reform Strategy drafted with support from UNDP.