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Cablegate: Prt Ghazni First Provincial Justice Conference

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958 N/A

REF: KABUL 004415

1. SUMMARY: Afghan justice officials, including representatives
of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Supreme Court,
and Attorney General?s office, attended a conference with
provincial justice officials December 14-15 in Ghazni Province.
The conference was hosted by the provincial government and
facilitated by CFC-A, the State Department?s Justice Sector
Support Program (JSSP), USAID and PRT Ghazni. About forty people
attended the conference; well over 50 percent were Afghan
officials, who engaged in lively dialogue about the needs of the
justice system and how to adhere more closely to judicial and
legal standards. Participants agreed the conference was
successful in accomplishing its main purposes: to open lines of
communications between key justice officials at the central and
provincial levels, and to identify some changes that will improve
compliance with the law in Ghazni. END SUMMARY.

2. At the first session on December 14, Afghan central government
officials introduced their agendas. Representatives of the four
justice institutions at the conference (police, prosecutors,
courts and prisons) agreed that noncompliance with the statutory
prisoner detainee time periods was a problem. They agreed to
form a committee to coordinate justice issues ? including
reviewing the status of prisoners who may be held longer than the
statutes allows (72 hours for police investigation, 15 days for
the prosecutor to make a case, etc.)

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3. After a lunch hosted by the Ghazni governor, the group toured
judicial sites in Ghazni, in the order in which a prisoner?s case
would make its way through the system. Visitors commented on the
overall high standard of facilities in Ghazni, including a new
judicial center and a renovated and expanded courthouse (both
USAID-funded projects), and new construction at the police
station. (Predictably, Ghazni justice officials pointed out
several shortcomings in the new facilities.) Judicial officials
were generally aware of current laws and judicial procedures,
although they are not always in compliance. For example,
prisoners arrested in remote districts are often kept more than
72 hours in police custody because of lack of transportation,
etc. At the prison, located in a crumbling fort several
kilometers outside of Ghazni, officials kept good records on each
prisoner. Conditions for prisoners were generally adequate,
except for a lack of heat. The prison currently has five female
inmates, and one woman's six-month-old baby.

4. On December 15, the conference attendees took part in four
breakout sessions addressing courts, prosecutors, police, and
prisons. During these sessions, central government and
provincial justice officials discussed current barriers to
effectively implementing the law. Each group identified goals
for improvements to be accomplished within the next 60 days. In
two months, the central government officials plan to visit Ghazni
again to review whether those goals have been met. Perhaps the
most important outcome of these meetings was to further cement
the consensus to establish a justice committee which will meet at
least monthly, but possibly weekly, to identify areas of
improvement and review prisoners? cases to make sure they are not
being held past deadlines.


5. Problems identified by the breakout groups are as follows.
Afghan officials hope to see progress on resolving these problems
when they re-visit Ghazni in 60 days.


-- Currently, the monitoring prosecutor (responsible for
monitoring the condition of prisoners, where they are in the
system, and how long they have been held) is not able to visit
the prison several kilometers outside Ghazni regularly due to
lack of transportation. The provincial government would like to
help by supplying transportation.

-- Political prisoners (often detained by NDS but deposited at
the provincial prison) are currently not accounted for properly.
Political prisoners are sometimes held without any documentation,
and may have no fixed term of detention. Prison officials will
try to bring documentation and detention of political prisoners
in line with regulations. Deputy Minister of Justice Hashimzai
was adamant about including these prisoners in planned

-- Most prisoners do not know how long they have been held, how
much of their sentence remains, or (in the case of suspects who
have not been convicted) where their cases are in the system.
Prison officials will try to communicate this information more
clearly to prisoners.
-- Prison conditions are generally good, but lack of heat is a
major problem. Prison officials will attempt to improve
insulation and install stoves in the cellblock.

-- When a prisoner has completed the statutory detention period
(either pre-trial or post-conviction), the prison sends a letter
to the prosecutor; the prison has no authority to release a
prisoner without an order from the prosecutor. Prison officials
complained the prosecutor often does not respond ? leaving the
prisoner in custody indefinitely. Prison officials say they have
no authority to communicate the problem to the court.


-- The prosecutors? group was most concerned about the Interim
Criminal Procedure Code (ICPC), several provisions of which they
strongly disliked. They were particularly concerned about
elements of the code that imposed unrealistic time periods for
investigation and prosecution. They pointed out that for
suspects detained in remote districts, just traveling back and
forth to Ghazni to transport the prisoner or complete the proper
paperwork can eat up much of the allotted time. The Ghazni
judicial committee plans to ask Governor Sher Alam to help them
lobby the MOJ for changes in this code. The group agreed to work
systematically to identify genuine problems with the ICPC and
recommend changes. The Chief Judge reminded the group that until
the ICPC was changed, it was the law and everyone had to comply
with it. (Note: It is unlikely anything will change on this
issue within 60 days).

-- The prosecutors said the courts do not follow Article 45 of
the ICPC, which calls for a three-judge panel. Sometimes, they
said, one judge takes a file home and issues a decision based
solely on his own review.

-- The prosecutors acknowledged problems with the provisions of
the code relating to the rights of the accused. For example, the
government is required to provide a defense attorney for the
accused, but there is no budget for this.


-- Working with the DynCorp mentors who have been assigned to PRT
Ghazni, the police plan to hold professional development seminars
in Ghazni within the next 60 days. USAID suggested after the
meeting that it would be helpful to involve the judges in police
training; they are in the best position to explain to recruits
what it takes to make a good case, and to explain how the police
fit into the criminal justice system and why certain procedures
(particularly involving arrestees? rights) are necessary.

-- The police requested that PRT or CFC-A assist them by
providing more help with transportation and communications.

-- Police identified the lack of qualified personnel as a
problem, saying it was difficult to recruit when salaries were so
low. The pay reform program under discussion at the MoI should
help address this problem.

-- Police also said they need more medical support. It was not
clear whether they meant for the health of police personnel, or
to assist with forensic investigations. LTC McNeely of CFC-A
said she would talk to the medical officer in the police reform
directorate to see how he could assist.

-- MOI wants to be notified about outcomes of cases. Currently,
they have no way of knowing whether their arrests and
investigations lead to successful prosecutions.


-- The primary issue identified by the courts group was the
problem of prisoners being detained beyond the statutory time
period. The court does not have any supervisory authority over
this matter.

-- The division of duties and roles between judge and prosecutor
for the supervision of cases is unclear and needs to be resolved.

-- Judges expressed considerable concern over the conflict of
interest involved in having a monitoring prosecutor check on the
prosecutor?s compliance with the law. One participant pointed
out that a new Law on Prosecutors being drafted might correct
this problem.

-- The general lack of defense attorneys was noted as a real
problem; the constitutional right to an attorney (provided free
of charge to indigents) is illusory when no defense attorneys are
available. In the meantime, public education, information
provided to persons in custody, and facilitation of pro se
petitions would help.

-- Under Article 3, Law of Defense Counsel, suspects can
designate defense counsel on a simple form rather than the
complex Shari'a contract formerly required. This was news to all
the institutions?and to USG participants. Heretofore, the hiring
of an attorney was conceptualized as a contractual relationship
requiring a Shari?a contract, necessitating two witnesses. This
has generally been viewed as a serious impediment to use of
defense counsel. The suspect?s right to a defense attorney and
the existence of this form should be publicized, and there should
be plenty of forms available.

6. COMMENT: This conference was the first of its type in
Afghanistan. The eagerness of the Afghan participants, both from
Ghazni and from the central government, demonstrates that this
type of program is needed elsewhere and could be successfully
exported to other provinces. Deputy Minister of Justice and
Afghan lead Dr. Hashimzai stated that the conference obtained
over 20 minutes of airtime on Afghan television on 14 December.
The agreed-to ways ahead (including the provincial justice
committee) are viable and practical, and promise an improvement
in both the delivery of justice and its perception in the
community at little cost. The follow-on visits by the central
government officials will motivate and focus the provincial
officials, while the central government gains valuable insight
into what is going on outside Kabul. END COMMENT.

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