The Access to Justice Project in Afghanistan aimed to promote the dissemination of legal skills and knowledge to key actors in the legal sector by providing materials and legal training.
The scoping mission in May 2005 found that there was a particular demand for training and capacity building in relation to children’s and women’s rights. Broader advocacy training and the building up of grassroots human rights organisations were all needed and the overall impression was of a huge demand for practical assistance.
In April 2006 and 2007, the BHRC in coordination with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) went to Afghanistan as part of its Rule of Law project funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Global Opportunities Fund.
The purpose of the 2006 visit was two fold: firstly to carry out a rule of law training workshop, in coordination with AIHRC; and secondly, to donate 10,000 legal text books to a number of legal and academic libraries and institutions throughout Afghanistan.
In April 2006 the BHRC team consisted of:
- Mr Mark Muller – Barrister and Chair, BHRC
- Ms Samantha Knights – Barrister and Project Leader, BHRC (Afghanistan Project)
- Ms Fouzia Khan – Consultant, BHRC (Afghanistan Project)
- Professor Christine Chinkin – Barrister and Professor of International Law, LSE
- Dr Martin Lau – Barrister and Reader in Law, SOAS
- Mr Sudhanshu Swaroop – Barrister
- Dr Ali Wardak – Lecturer, Criminology, University of Glamorgan
The library donation of 10,000 books was made possible thanks to funding from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The donation aims to dramatically improve conditions for Afghanistan’s legal sector by providing it with a comprehensive catalogue of international and domestic law reference documents. The books, in Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Arabic and English, were sourced from London, Damascus, Tehran, Kabul and Peshawar.
Under the project, the 10,000 books were divided equally among 10 Afghan institutions, chosen according to their ability to balance the opportunity for widest usage with the best and safest environment for that use.
The institutions to which books were donated include; Kabul University, the Ministry of Justice, the National Parliament, University of Herat, Balkh University, Nangarhar University, Kandahar University, Khost University and the Centre for Policy and Human Development. During the visit, members of the BHRC visited the main library at Kabul University, where one set of the legal texts in Arabic, Dari, Farsi and Pashto had been labelled and catalogued by the University staff.
Rule of Law Workshops
As part of its work in Afghanistan in 2006, the BHRC worked closely with AIHRC to deliver ‘Rule of Law’ training in workshops for 50 key actors in the Afghan justice sector.
The aims of the workshops were to:
- Promote the dissemination of legal skills and knowledge to key actors in the legal sector thereby contributing to the reestablishment of the rule of law in Afghanistan and improving access to justice for all Afghans – in particular, women – to achieve stability and security.
- Contribute to judicial reform by increasing awareness of international human rights legislation, domestic and other legislation among key individuals in the legal sector.
- Complement the reconstruction of the judicial system proposed by UNAMA/UNDP in conjunction with the Afghan Judicial Reform Commission.
A Training Manual on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan was produced to complement the programme.
The 50 participants were selected by the AIHRC and consisted of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, justice ministry members, academics and human rights activists. Fifty percent of participants were female and approximately 70% were from provinces outside Kabul. The training focused on rule of law issues and included discussions on constitutional law, family law and international and human rights law, with a strong focus on issues relating to women and children. The objective throughout the workshop was to have equal participation by international and Afghan speakers so that international law could be explained in context and so that many of the practical issues and concerns specific to Afghanistan could be addressed.
At the end of the workshops, each participant was presented the ‘Certificate of Completion of Rule of Law Training’.
A participant from Mazar, Miss S. Ahmadi, said “We hope such training workshops continue to take place in Afghanistan. We need people, our leaders and institutions alike, to act on the promises made during the training to improve the conditions for human rights and rule of law in Afghanistan.”
In April 2007 the BHRC returned to Afghanistan to deliver a 3 day training workshop on Women’s Rights and the Rights of the Child. The training took place between 24th and 26th April 2007 in the Safi Landmark Hotel, Kabul. The Committee had intended to carry out the training in Nangahar University, Jalalabad; however, due to the security situation the FCO recommended that it be relocated to Kabul.
The BHRC UK team consisted of:
- Ms Brenda Campbell – Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
- Ms Naina Patel – Barrister, Blackstone Chambers
- Ms Naoimh Hughes – BHRC Project Coordinator
The 31 participants were selected by the AIHRC and consisted of lawyers, judges, policemen, academics and human rights activists. Almost one third of the participants came from Nangarhar and over 50% were women.
In relation to women’s rights, the training focussed on gender equality, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) and other international instruments applicable to Afghanistan in relation to non discrimination. Trainers also spoke about equality and non discrimination in the Afghan constitution, civil law, customary law and other sources.
Rights of the Child
In relation to child rights, the training dealt with international law in the form of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”) and child rights under Afghan law. Issues addressed included the sexual abuse of children, children in conflict with the law, children as victims and children living with female prisoners. Several delegates from Save the Children were also present and spoke about their organisation’s work in Afghanistan and the problems and challenges faced.
A Manual on Women’s Rights and the Rights of the Child was produced to accompany the training and was translated into Dari and Pashto. Copies of the manual were distributed to all participants at the training and a number were given to the AIHRC to further distribute.
Book Donation Ceremony
On the conclusion of the rule of law training, the BHRC hosted a reception to announce the donation of the books. Speeches were given by the BHRC UK team and Mr Michael Ryder, British Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan and Mr Fahim Hakim, Deputy Chair of the AIHRC. The reception was attended by the participants of the training seminars and individuals from the Afghan government, local and international organisations working in the development, legal and justice sector in Afghanistan – academics, judges, prosecutors, lawyers.
In April 2007, the BHRC Project Coordinator visited a number of the institutions in Kabul to which books were donated and was able to see that the books were on the shelves, had been catalogued and clearly marked ‘reference only’.