‘Lack of security has affected the judicial process & decision making in Kunduz courts’

  Interview with Matiuallah Dehati, Provincial Coordinator, Integrity Watch Afghanistan- Kunduz

During the last two years, Kunduz has witnessed frequent combat operations and it was the first province in a decade where the provincial capital was occupied last year by armed opposition groups. However, since the recapture of Kunduz city by the government, its residents who have directly experienced the bitter taste of war and insecurity are still living with the risk of further incursions.

Mr Dehati pointed out that while such insecurity has had a negative impact on many aspects of daily life for the citizens in Kunduz, it has also had an impact on the courts and the prosecution system. For instance, he noted that several districts in the province are presently under the complete control of insurgent groups, where courts are unable to operate because the judges are unable to attend to their jobs as a result of this insecurity. Because of this situation, regular judicial sessions are not being held and there is a consequent lack of a proper review of outstanding cases.

He added that “the insecurity has affected the courts to as the extent that I once visited one of the courts and was told that for security reasons they do not hold any preliminary sessions and they move directly to a final session and that that is enough.”

According to accepted judicial procedure and the judicial code, a preliminary session should first be held followed by subsequent sessions up until the final session. During these initial sessions, it is expected that the accused will be advised of his/her rights, such as a right to have a lawyer to represent them in their defense and the accused should have the right to provide a full and complete defense during subsequent sessions. The absence of such sessions, will jeopardize the integrity of the court’s procedures in addition to compromising the right of the accused to a proper defense. However, according to Mr. Dehati, there has been an absence of such sessions and the related appropriate procedures.

In the meantime, Integrity Watch’s Provincial Coordinator noted that he feels disappointment and is pessimistic about the prospects for the proper execution of the law in Kunduz saying that despite the efforts of IWA, and some efforts on the part of the courts, the outcome is still far from ideal. “You should not expect full enforcement of the law in a war-torn province”, he concludes.

In addition to all of the above challenges, Mr. Dehati noted that a lack of transparency in the judicial process of the courts, and corruption, are the other key challenges which need to be dealt with by the courts. Based on Matiullah Dehati’s monitoring of courts for over the last one year he notes that far more attention needs to be paid to courts and prosecutions in the province. The assigned criminal police should, as one example, establish a closer degree of coordination with the courts.

Matiullah Dehati is working with Integrity Watch Afghanistan as the Provincial Coordinator for northern Kunduz province. He has been working with Integrity Watch Afghanistan for over sixteen months.