November 17, 2020, Kabul, Afghanistan- The largest coalition of Afghan civil society organizations (CSOs), the Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) in held a news conference to highlight their objections to the recent illegal appointment of the Anti-Corruption Commissions’ (ACC) Commissioners. The CSJWG believes that the government has deliberately broken the terms of the Anti-Corruption Law so as to create a weak, non-independent and political Anti-Corruption Commission. The government violated the Anti-Corruption Law by expelling the elected representatives of CSOs from the selection process and then selected 15 applicants out of 50 candidates. The President violated Article 10 of the Law by appointing 5 commissioners out of the 15 finalists without consultation with CSOs.
According to Article 9 of the Anti-Corruption Law and Articles 5 and 6 of the Selection Guidelines, two elected representatives of the civils society and two representatives of the government should prepare a shortlist of candidates. Based on article 10 of the Anti-Corruption Law, the President should consult civil society on the final nominees for the Anti-Corruption Commission. However, the government removed the civil society representative from the selection process in July 2020 and then in November 2020 the President refused to consult with civil society on the final nominees.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, said, “Government delayed six years in creating the ACC. During this time CSOs stopped the Government from creating a political commission. However, by expelling CSOs from the selection process, the Government at the end illegally created the ACC.” He added, “Anti-corruption institutions that are prone to political interference will have low effectiveness because the political leadership could use it for their political and personal benefits.”
Civil society reviewed the profiles of the appointed commissioners and believe that three members are closely associated with the current political leadership, based on their past background. Also, two members lack the necessary experience in anti-corruption.
In the document that the Afghan government presented to the London Conference in 2014, it committed that “We will form an independent anti-corruption commission with time-bound prosecutorial powers. Membership of this commission will be drawn from civil society and qualified legal specialists as well as from the government.” After the Conference, the CSO’s requested the creation of such a ACC but to no avail.
When the National Strategy for Combating Corruption was being developed, CSOs requested that it should contain a commitment to the creation of the ACC but the President rejected this, saying that the creation of such a commission would be against the Constitution. After a year of advocacy by CSOs and some members of international community, President Ghani recommitted to create the ACC. The Anti-Corruption Law drafting process started at the Ministry of Finance, but the President rejected it three times thereby wasting two more years. After further advocacy, the President signed off on the Anti-Corruption Law but when it was published in the Official Gazette, 42 differences were observed between the version approved by the Cabinet and the version published in the Gazette, showing a huge distortion from the law which was originally agreed. After another six-month of advocacy by civil society, the Government admitted the distortion in the Law and President ordered its amendment. Finally, when implementing the Law, the Government try to marginalize CSO and when the elected representatives of the CSOs resisted the government’s political process, the Government forced them out.
Lailuma Nasiri, President of Afghanistan Justice Organization, and an elected representative of CSOs in the selection process said, “The Government has been ambivalent about the creation of an apolitical and impartial ACC and has failed to create strong anti-corruption bodies that the Afghan people expected.” She added that CSOs shared their concerns and criticisms with the government previously and they are still critical of the process.
Abdul Wahid Farzayi, senior member of Lawyers Union of Afghanistan, said, “The appointment process of commissioners as stipulated in the Law has been rejected by both houses of the Parliament and the Government should not implement a legislative in contradiction with the Constitution.” The Lower House of Parliament has rejected both the Anti-Corruption Law and its amendments, but the Upper House has approved the Law albeit with amendments in the selection process.
Baryalai Omarzai, Head of Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau, said, “Some members of international community’s role in creation of the ACC is deplorable. Not only some members of international community declined to protest creation of an ACC in stark contradiction with United Nation’s Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) but also questionably joined the Government in such a step.”
The CSOs urge the Government to cancel the commissioner’s appointment and restart the process once the Law is approved by the Parliament. The CSOs will us any civic and legal option to maintain their advocacy.
Executive Director of Afghanistan’s Democracy and Development Organization, Abdullah Ahmadi, said, “We urge Afghan people, the Parliament, reformers within the Government, members of international community committed to creation of independent institutions to pressure the government to dissolve this illegitimate commission and pave the ground for creation of the ACC in a month.” “We request the Parliament to discuss the Law in the Joint Committee and submit it to the Government as soon as possible”, he added.
Note to the Editors:
- Established in 2010, Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) has more than 1300 members all across Afghanistan. CSJWG is known as the largest cooperation platform of Afghan civil society groups.
- Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee is one of the committees of CSJWG and comprises the following members: 1) Kilid Group 2) Integrity Watch 3) Afghanistan Justice Organization 4) Afghanistan Lawyers Union 5) Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization 6) Afghanistan Public Policy and Research Organization 7)Equality for Peace and Democracy Organization 8) Afghan Coordination Against Corruption Organization 9)Afghanistan Independent Bars Association 10) Women and Peace Studies Organization 11) Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation 12) Women’s Capacity Building and Development Organization 13) Feminine Solidarity for Justice Organization 14) Development and Support of Afghan Women and Children Organization 15) Development and humanitarian service for Afghanistan 16) Da Qanoon Ghoshtonki 17) Afghanistan Civil Society Forum 18) CORE 19) Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau.
For further information please reach out Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee’s Secretariat through firstname.lastname@example.org / 0702743723