Building a post-war justice system in Afghanistan

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This paper examines key dimensions of justice in post-war Afghanistan. These are shari’a (Islamic law), traditional institutions of informal justice (jirga), the Afghan interim legal framework, and human rights principles. It is argued that despite their apparent incompatibility, these various dimensions of justice could be integrated within a coherent framework of a new justice system in post-war Afghanistan – a framework that would promote interaction between local institutions of informal justice and a district level court of justice, on the one hand, and between these two and a proposed human rights unit, on the other. On the basis of this analysis, an experimental model of a system of justice is proposed, which integrates local jirga and human rights units into the existing formal justice (based on shari’a and positive law) and law-enforcement institutions. This experimental model provides a multi-dimensional framework that both reflects the cultural and religious values of Afghan society, and at the same time, has the capacity to draw on human rights principles. It is maintained that the model has the capacity to deliver justice expeditiously and in cost-effective ways; it also has a strong potential to act as a channel of communication between ordinary people and a modern participatory state in post-war Afghanistan. However, in order to test the applicability of this model in the real world, it needs first to be thoroughly discussed among Afghan and international legal experts as well as among ordinary Afghan people, and then piloted in selected districts in Afghanistan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-341
Number of pages24
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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