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Afghanistan: Courts

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 23 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of access to legal redress through the courts in Afghanistan. (269919)

The formal justice system in Afghanistan is weak, often corrupt and typically inaccessible to women, children and rural communities. Furthermore, there is a shortage of trained judges and legal representation. For the majority of Afghans, justice and dispute resolution is dispensed through informal, traditional systems. We estimate that over 80 per cent. of justice/dispute resolution is dispensed through informal systems and in Helmand we believe this to be even higher. Aspects of these systems have been used for hundreds of years and tend to have a high level of acceptance and legitimacy among the public. This includes Taliban courts in Taliban controlled areas.

The UK is supporting the strengthening of the justice sector in Afghanistan: at the national level we are building the capacity of the Criminal Justice Task Force and the Central Narcotics Tribunal to tackle narcotics related crimes. Through the Department for International Development, we have supported the World Bank's Justice Sector Reform Project focused on improving the formal justice system. In Helmand, we have prioritised support for informal justice systems by promoting and strengthening traditional dispute resolution mechanisms as a viable alternative to those provided by the Taliban. This includes legal education, promoting access to justice for women and children and improving linkages with the formal justice system.