Community monitoring improves communication between courts and defence attorneys

Integrity Volunteers in Nahr-e-Shahi district of northern Balkh province noticed that defence attorneys would come late to open trials wasting the time of the courts and also the public. The issues was also raised by the Provincial Appeal Court in a regular meeting organized between Integrity Volunteers and the court.

Integrity Volunteers raised the issue with the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) in Balkh Province. AIBA acknowledged the problem but explained that according to Criminal Procedure Court (CPC) Law, defence attorneys are supposed to receive a written notice at least five days in advance before any court session. However, the defence attorneys receive a notice at the same time as their clients are brought to the court for proceedings. Therefore, defence attorneys were almost always late. The issue had been raised many times with the courts to no effect.

Integrity Volunteers, together with community representatives and Integrity Watch staff, raised the issue with the Head of the Appeal Court and Nahr-e-Shahi courts. They acknowledged the problem and promised they would inform the defence attorneys in advance with a written notice according to CPC provision. Since then, the Integrity Volunteers have noticed that the defence attorneys are informed of any court proceedings by the courts in a timely manner. Defence attorneys have also ensured to be present in the courtrooms well before the open trials begin.

Community-based monitoring of trials (CBM-T) program of Integrity Watch has been working with local communities in five provinces including Balkh, Bamyan, Kapisa, Kunduz, and Nangarhar provinces. CBM-T mobilizes communities and trains integrity volunteers to monitor open trials and advocate for necessary changes working closely with primary and appeal courts. Integrity Watch plans to expand the program to 4 more provinces this year.