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Restoring rule of law in Afghanistan

Law faculty joins larger effort to restore the nation's judicial system

By Brian Maffly

The Salt Lake Tribune


The University of Utah's law faculty will help restore the rule of law in war-ravaged Afghanistan under an initiative to bring prosecutors to the S.J. Quinney College of Law for training.

On Thursday in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the formal launch of a program called the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, an effort that encompasses the U.'s participation. This larger effort is designed to rebuild judicial infrastructure that was dismantled during the five years of Taliban misrule that came to an end with the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

"We are asking American law firms and law schools to help the Afghan judicial system in a variety of ways. By providing lawyer-to-lawyer support through this Public-Private Partnership, we hope to bring Afghan practitioners into the larger international community of legal professionals," said Rice at Thursday's State Department gathering that included Afghan Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit and U. law school dean Hiram Chodosh.

"This is an exciting moment for the law school," Chodosh said. "We are increasingly known for having assembled an unparalleled level of expertise with an ability to meet this kind of challenge."


In the program's first year, 15 key Afghan prosecutors will come to Utah for three to four weeks of intensive training this summer.


"The long-term ambition is to embed a training methodology that can be disseminated to [Afghanistan's] 2,000 prose- cutors nationwide," Chodosh said. The school's Global Justice Project will lead the program, enlisting experts in institutional justice reform, Islamic law, comparative constitutional law, criminal procedure, mediation, human rights and global security. Training will focus on investigation, indictment, prosecution and management, with an emphasis on the rights of the accused.


Restoring a legal system is vital to the central Asian nation's future and the Utah program will be a critical contribution, said members of Afghanistan's diplomatic mission to the United States.


"It's extremely important for us. We want to have much further progress in Afghanistan. We need to strengthen the rule of law, because it's the basis of development itself and everyday life," said Masood Aziz, a political counselor with the embassy. "The University of Utah is not only a premier organization with wonderful programs, but also the caliber of the College of Law itself and the faculty is extremely interested. We deeply, deeply appreciate their support of the program."


In 2004, Afghan lawmakers adopted a 162-article constitution, but the country has a long journey before it enjoys a functional system. During the Taliban era, Afghanistan lost 80 percent of its schools and most of its physical resources and human talent associated with the administration of law.


"One concern for the justice system is the deficiency of basic equipment - such as just office supplies, vehicles - and the limited availability of defense attorneys and private practitioners. Another challenge is to expand public awareness of legal rights, which is especially lacking in rural areas," Rice said. She praised the Afghan government for addressing the interests of women, such as access to health care, education and employment, and becoming the leading employer of women, including the 368 now working for the attorney general.

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