In February 2021, UNDP Afghanistan conducted several meetings with key government entities in order to identify expert witnesses who are able to support juries in making fair and impartial decisions.
According to Chapter 6, Article 47 of the Criminal Procedure Code, providing a list of experts is the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). An expert witness is a necessary component of the judicial system. Without an expert providing information on how and why something went wrong or what the generally accepted standard of care is in their particular area of expertise, juries may have no basis upon which to make an informed decision.
Expert witness opinion testimony is governed by the constitution and Criminal Procedure Code, which enable an expert to offer opinion testimony if their knowledge, skill, experience, training or education qualifies them to do so.
UNDP’s ACTION project is supporting the Anti-corruption Justice Center and Attorney General’s Office to prepare the list of experts and develop terms of reference and guidelines for experts providing support to juries for making impartial and evidence-based decision. The booklet will explain in detail how expert witnesses examine the evidence and apply professional and academic experience to explain and interpret the evidence. It will also clarify how the justice system will benefit from experts in a range of fields.
“The expert witness’s identification from a different department is in line with Afghan law and not a cut and paste exercise from another jurisdiction” said Mr. Shir Mohammad Arab, Chief Judge of Anti-Corruption Primary Court. “Using expert witness expertise will support judiciary in making effective decisions in fight against corruption,” he added.
Initially the UNDP conducted meetings with leadership of the Anti-corruption Justice Center, including with judges from primary and appeal courts. Through these meetings, the UNDP assessed how they handle complex cases requiring expert witness.
In order to establish and identify a comprehensive list of expert witnesses from key government entities, UNDP also organized meetings with the Directorate of Criminal Technique of Ministry of Interior, Attorney General’s Office and National Procurement Authority. They discussed their experts’ roles and responsibilities including how expert opinion will contribute to juries’ decisions when adjudicating complex corruption cases.
It is important that the selection processes for experts does not over-focus on academia. The most effective experts also have well-established practical experience in their field.
After AGO has identified and established experts witness list, UNDP will conduct a comprehensive training to expert witnesses on how to provide opinions in different cases that require them to help the jurry make evidence-based decisions.