Open Justice Conference: Public participation to be institutionalized in the justice institutions

Kabul, Afghanistan – Thursday, 13 June 2019: Integrity Watch Afghanistan held the National Integrity Conference at the Government Media and Information Center to highlight the participation of citizens in the justice institutions. The second Vice-President, together with representatives of the justice institutions, IWA volunteers and civic organizations attended. The conference emphasized the importance of institutionalization of public and civil society participation in the institutions within the justice sector.

“The justice sector and in particular, the courts, have made efforts to involve the public in their affairs, but Afghanistan has a long way to go to consolidate the legitimacy of the justice sector through confidence building and involving the people in the state affairs,” said Sayed Ikram Afzali the Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. He added that the failure to  institutionalise  the values of democracy and  citizen’s participation in the affairs of the government and in particular the  justice sector has caused the people to avoid the government and go to the informal justice system thereby weakening the legitimacy of the state, increasing insecurity and instability, all of which weakens the chances of peace. The Community Based Monitoring of Open Trials was launched by the Integrity Watch Afghanistan in 2011 to involve the public in the affairs of the justice institutions. Since then, it has monitored a total of 5624 public trial cases.  IWA’s 626 volunteer monitors attended the public trials. Meanwhile, the volunteer monitors have held feedback meetings and awareness-raising programs for about 30,000 people through the local councils. The program has been implemented in Kabul, Bamyan, Jawzjan, Kunar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kapisa, Parwan, Herat and Kunduz provinces.

The results of Community-Based Monitoring of public trials show that some advances have been made in holding hearings in open courtrooms. However, there is still a low level of open court hearings: Kunar 52%, Herat 44%, Kabul 27%, and in Provinces such as Bamyan 15%, Jawzjan 12% and Nangarhar the level is only 1.5%. Public pronouncements of verdicts in the presence of the accused has increased substantially. This figure was 100% in Kunar and Laghman Provinces and 97% percent in Jawzjan province. While it was 66% in Parwan, 80% in Kapisa and 81% in Balkh provinces. The percentage of cases where the accused person was informed of their rights was 96 % in Nangarhar, 93 %in Kabul, and 90 % in Laghman, while it was 65 % in Herat and Jawzjan provinces and 74% in Balkh.

The presence of defense attorneys in courtrooms has increased substantially. This was 100% for Laghman and Kunar provinces and 97% for Jawzjan Province. However, it was 68%in Kabul, 73%in Parwan, and still 80% in Bamyan and Herat. The prosecutor’s presence was very good in a number of provinces. It was 100% in Kunar and Laghman and 98 %in Nangarhar but only 85% in Bamiyan, 88% in Parwan and 96% in Balkh.

In the past two years, the courts have taken measures to fight corruption including sentencing a judge to imprisonment, the disqualification of 5 judges and 143 punitive actions, including salary deductions and official warnings. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office has also taken measures to fight corruption, including firing 19 prosecutors, the early retirement of 127 prosecutors and reducing the salary of 12 prosecutors.

At the end of the conference, the participants issued a joint resolution which emphasized the promotion, institutionalization, and implementation of the principles of open justice. Open Justice focuses on providing transparency, accountability, public participation, on strengthening internal safeguards of the justice system, ensuring the separation of powers between the government and the judiciary, increasing respect for the independence of the justice system, having an open & transparent appointment system for the justice system and making full use of technology to increase integrity.

Nearly 300 people from international and national justice institutions in Kabul, high-ranking justice officials, including 120 volunteer monitors of the public trials of courts and members of civil society organizations from nine provinces attended at the conference.

Click on below link for Open Justice Resolution: