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Cablegate: Zabul Justice System Shows New Signs of Life

VZCZCXRO4618
RR RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2752/01 2871130
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131130Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5820
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DOJ WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002752

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR WILKES
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF

SUBJECT: Zabul Justice System Shows New Signs of Life

1. (SBU) Summary. In an August 6 public sentencing hearing attended
by over 200 local and provincial officials and tribal elders, the
invigorated Zabul Court of Appeals handed down five death and
fourteen life sentences to a group charged with murdering ten people
and wounding six more in Shajoy District. Zabul Governor Arman and
Zabul's newly-installed judges and prosecutors intended the event as
a demonstration of their determination to prosecute criminal
defendants under the law. Increased public confidence in a more
efficient justice system could increase willingness to turn in
criminals and insurgents and strengthen rule of law and provincial
security. End Summary.

Justice Sector Reform in Zabul
------------------------------

2. (U) In early 2008, the Supreme Court reformed the criminal
justice system in Zabul by replacing Zabul's two reportedly timid
judges with five experienced, qualified judges, all of whom reside
in Qalat. They include: Chief Judge (President of the Zabul Court
of Appeals) Mohammed Hakim Kunarai, Judge Akhtar Mohammed (President
of the Civil Court), Judge Eid Mohammed (President of the Public
Security, i.e., NDS Court), Judge Mohammed Salim (President of the
Qalat City Court), and Judge Abdul Ali Baluch (Member of the Public
Security Court). The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also sent a new
Chief Prosecutor (i.e. Attorney General), Hajji Seraj, to Zabul to
replace the former provincial Attorney General. Though new Chief
Judge Hakim stresses the judiciary's independence, he maintains
cordial relationships with Governor Delbar Jan Arman and Deputy
Governor Gulab Shah Alikhel. The three agree the rejuvenated
justice system needs to prosecute and sentence, or if found not
guilty, release the more than fifty insurgent suspects currently
held at the Zabul Provincial Prison and NDS detention facility.

First Sentences Delivered at Orchestrated Hearing
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. (U) Judge Hakim presided over the Court of Appeals' first
sentencing hearing, with Judges Mohammed Salim and Akhtar Mohammed
comprising the rest of the Supreme Court-mandated three-judge panel.
Prosecutors Abdur Rahim and Atiquallah represented the MoJ. The
Deputy Governor, Provincial Chief of Police COL Mohammed Yaqoub,
Chair of the Provincial Council (PC) Hajji Mohammed Hashem, other PC
members, several line ministry department directors, and over 200
tribal elders, including 15 mullahs, attended the hearing. An
Ariana TV crew from Kandahar filmed the proceedings, and several
local journalists, along with Zabul's Youth, Information and Culture
Director, Bismallah Loddin, also recorded the event.

4. (U) Hakim summarized the case and the charges against the
defendants. The ANP apprehended a total of 30 suspects in
connection with the August 10, 2006 murders of 10 Shajoy District
residents and the wounding of six others. According to ANP reports,
the defendants murdered the victims and stole a vehicle and personal
property. At the time of their arrest, the ANP found guns and
ammunition in the suspects' possession; some of the defendants'
clothes also bore blood stains. The group's leader, Habibullah,
made several attempts to explain the weapons and ammunition, but the
ANP refuted each. Ultimately, the group confessed, but denied any
Taliban connections.

5. (U) Habibullah and one of the victims' fathers were permitted to
make statements to the court. Habibullah admitted he was a thief
but claimed he was innocent of the murders and had no Taliban
connections. He offered no evidence, but directed accusatory
statements at others, such as claiming the ANP who arrested him were
Taliban. Following Habibullah's statement, one of the victims'
fathers said the defendants' families did not know each other and no
personal or tribal vendettas were involved in the murders. He also
claimed Habibullah and the other defendants were Taliban and
suggested all 19 be publicly beheaded.

6. (U) Following a 20 minute closed door deliberation, Judge Hakim
pronounced all 19 defendants guilty. He said he considered the role
each individual played when deciding their sentences. He sentenced
Habibullah and four other defendants to death, and the other
fourteen to life in prison. He noted he would have sentenced one
more defendant to death, but was legally unable because that
individual was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime.

KABUL 00002752 002 OF 002

Corruption Still a Factor
-------------------------

7. (SBU) During private meetings, the Deputy Governor and Judge
Hakim both indicated corruption played a role in the case. The
Deputy Governor said ANP or MOJ corruption might have led to the
release of four of the suspects, escape of two, and caused one
suspect to go "missing." Judge Hakim, speaking to PRTOff the day
before the sentencing, claimed that an anonymous caller had offered
him USD 60,000 to release all 19 defendants.

8. (SBU) Despite indications of corruption, the case and hearing
were a giant leap forward for rule of law in Zabul province. The
PRT will track public sentiment about this case and others to
determine their impact among popular conceptions of rule of law.
Improved perceptions of the Zabul judicial system could encourage
locals to pass tips to ANP and NDS officers, increasing the justice
system's ability to prosecute criminals and unlawful anti-government
elements.

WOOD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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