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US launches public-private bid to reform Afghan justice

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Thu Dec 13, 7:18 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Thursday launched a public-private partnership to promote an independent and fair judicial system in Afghanistan, which has been battered by decades of war and turmoil.

In a ceremony chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Afghan Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit, US law firms and law schools agreed to fund projects that train members of the legal profession and offer aid to the poor.

“Establishing a fair, democratic and transparent justice system in Afghanistan is essential to the country’s success. And we know that there is much work remaining to be done,” Rice said in a speech.

“One concern for the justice system is the deficiency of basic equipment, such as just office supplies, vehicles, and the limited availability of defense attorneys and private practitioners,” she said.

“Another challenge is to expand public awareness of legal rights, which is especially lacking in rural areas,” Rice added.

“Increasing the number of women judges is also a key priority. Afghanistan currently has over 1,500 judges nationwide, yet only 60 are women,” she said.

“It is imperative that Afghanistan develop a well-trained, educated and demographically-representative cadre of judges to serve in courts across the country,” the secretary of state said.

Sabit said the reforms would fight crime, corruption, terrorism and drug trafficking.

He said an important “first step” is training lawyers and prosecutors.

“Raising the salaries of prosecutors and judges would help us fight corruption,” he added.

In partnership with the US State Department are the Law Offices of Donald Edgar of Santa Rosa, California, and Arent Fox LLP of Washington D.C. as well as the University of Utah School of Law.

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Written by afghandevnews

December 15, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Governance

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