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Ambassador Jawad Speaks on Rule of Law Initiatives in Afghanistan

Ambassador Said T. Jawad spoke to legal scholars, Stanford University Law School Dean Larry Kramer and alumni of Stanford University Law School in an event on June 19 that explored Afghanistan's state-building efforts through the modernization of its justice sector and the implementation rule of law initiatives.

In his speech, Ambassador Jawad recognized that while Afghanistan's heritage and history once allowed conflicts to be resolved through traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms, the decades of conflict and current peace-building process require a modern justice system to be put in place. "Afghanistan was a traditional society where a person’s reputation, family honor, and the fear of shame carried greater weight than the black letter of the law," he noted. "And while traditional elements of dispute resolution remain important and should be incorporated into this system, state-building in Afghanistan will not be successful at this stage without modern democratic institutions and rule of law initiatives."

Ambassador Jawad also stated that one of the central factors in improving Afghanistan's justice sector is legal education. "Judges base most of their decisions on personal opinion since less than half of Afghan judges possess formal higher education and 82 percent do not have access to Supreme Court decisions and legal texts," he pointed out.

Additionally, Ambassador Jawad recognized the importance of the international community and U.S.-based law firms and law schools in helping Afghanistan improve its justice system. He highlighted two key initiatives that have been particularly helpful - the Private-Public Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan and Stanford Law School’s Afghanistan Legal Education Project.

The Private-Public Partnership was launched in December 2007 and aims to use the U.S. legal community to help modernize Afghanistan's legal sector. The Legal Education Project at Stanford Law School is a product of their legal clinic for rule of law reform in developing nations. The project began in the fall of 2007 with the development of Afghanistan’s first modern legal textbook by students in the legal clinic. The textbook will be used to teach a class on Afghan law at the American University of Afghanistan. Law students from Stanford traveled to Afghanistan to consult with government officials and legal experts in developing the textbook and curriculum for the law course. The goal of the project is to plant the seeds for Afghanistan’s first modern law school and have the text book be used at law schools around the country.

On June 18, Ms. Hawa Ghaus, Legislative Counsel to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., spoke at a private dinner held by Dean Kramer of Stanford Law School to celebrate the law school’s Legal Education Project at the American University of Afghanistan. In attendance were partners at major law firms in Washington, Stanford law school officials, and founders of the Afghanistan Legal Education Project. Ms. Ghaus stressed Afghanistan’s importance to regional and global stability and outlined how the rule of law is essential to Afghanistan’s social, economic and political development. "Your legal expertise in assisting Afghanistan’s rule of law efforts is crucial at this stage in Afghanistan’s development when the country is establishing its legal institutions, educating the next generation of lawyers, and – after three decades of war - cultivating a new order based on the rule of law,” she said.

Since 2001, Afghanistan has made modest yet important strides to develop and modernize its justice system. Progress has included training and capacity building programs, the distribution of legal texts and materials, the re-building of physical infrastructure such as prisons, and the adoption of new laws. Significant steps remain, though, for which continued international support and engagement will be vital.


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