Civil Society urges government leadership to commit to independence of the judiciary and having oversight, and regulatory institutions following a political deal
Friday, June 5, 2020 – Kabul: Civil Society organizations urged President Ashraf Ghani and the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah to commit to independence of the judiciary and to having oversight and regulatory institutions following a deal to end the political turmoil which followed the disputed election results. The deal includes sharing the top government positions between the two leading candidates in the recent Presidential Elections. There are concerns among civil society and the public that the deal might further politicize the judiciary and the oversight, and regulatory institutions since there is no clear commitment in the deal to ensure their independence.
In a statement to the media, Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan said, “We welcome the end to the political stalemate which resulted from the disputed election results. However, we are concerned that the agreement might lead to a distribution of the leadership positions of the independent institutions paving the way for further politicization and capture of these institutions.” If these institutions are captured again, it would not only waste another chance of reforms in the coming years but would further erode public trust as it would undermine the rule of law, Mr. Afzali added. According to the National Corruption Survey, public confidence in the government is at a very low level as more than 72% of the population do not trust public services.

These institutions can only function properly if they are independent based on international best practice and standards, Mr. Afzali said. He continued, “at a minimum, they must be independent of political interference and their leadership should be selected through a competitive and apolitical process, their budgetary independence respected, they are adequately resourced, and their internal and external accountability mechanisms are strong enough to ensure that the rule of law and the accountability of state institutions work in the best interests of the public to win the public trust.”

Mr. Abdullah Ahmadi, Chairman of the Civil Society Joint Working Group, stated, “Democracy without rule of law is meaningless and rule of law without the independence of the judiciary and oversight agencies is impossible.” He added that “the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, the Anti-Corruption Justice Center, and the professional units of the Ministry of Justice comprise the backbone of the judicial and justice institutions in Afghanistan and are the most important institutions for ensuring citizens access to justice and the proper application of the law. Therefore, they have to remain apolitical and their independence has to be ensured by the political leadership.”

Independent oversight institutions, namely the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of Constitution, the Supreme Audit Office, the De Afghanistan Bank, the Independent Elections Commission, the Electoral Complaints Commission, the Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Services Commission, the Access to Information Commission, and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission are crucial to ensuring checks and balances among the various organs of state and the accountability of state institutions, Mr. Ahmadi added. He also said that the regulatory bodies such the Afghanistan Telecommunication Authority (ATRA), the Mining Technical Committee (MTC), and the Afghanistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (AOGRA) are critical in preventing political interference and undue influence being exerted by powerful groups in the market. In addition, state corporations including De Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), Ariana Afghan Airlines, Afghan Telecom, and the National Development Corporation could play a crucial role in preventing monopolies in the market provided that these institutions have integrity and are apolitical, Mr. Ahmadi added.

Note to editors:
Established in 2010, Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) has more than 1300 organizational members all across Afghanistan. CSJWG is known as the largest cooperation platform of Afghan civil society groups.  Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee (GACC) is one of the committees of CSJWG and is facilitated by Integrity Watch. Members of the committee include the following:

Killid Group,
Afghanistan Justice Organization,
Afghanistan Lawyers Union,
Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization,
Afghanistan Public Policy and Research Organization
Equality for Peace and Democracy Organization
Afghan Coordination Against Corruption Organization
Afghanistan Independent Bars Association
Women and Peace Studies Organization
Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation
Women’s Capacity Building and Development Organization
Feminine Solidarity for Justice Organization
Development and Support of Afghan Women and Children Organization
Development and Humanitarian Service for Afghanistan
Da Qanoon Ghoshtonki
Afghanistan Civil Society Forum
CORE
Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau
Integrity Watch Afghanistan

For more information:

Please contact Abdullah Ahmadi re CSJWG: Ahmadi.cc@gmail.com/0700294693, and Naser Timory re GACC: n.timory@integritywatch.org/0794610003