Asia-Pacific, Headlines, Human Rights

AFGHANISTAN: Govt Denies Legal Inequality

KABUL, Jul 28 2009 (IPS) - The head of the Afghan Supreme Court, Mohammad Zaman Sangri, denies that a legal double standard exists in Afghanistan, saying that all Afghans receive equal treatment before the law.

“Whenever an insurgent or transgressor is captured there is rigorous investigation,” Zaman Sangri says. “The case is then handed to the judiciary system, which prosecutes the case seriously and fairly.”

But there is much evidence showing that Afghanistan’s judiciary branch has never been able to deal fairly with rich and powerful men.

Three years ago Abdul Jabar Thubet was appointed Attorney General of Afghanistan. He promised the National Assembly that he would eradicate corruption.

During trips to the provinces, Thubet did prosecute a number of local government authorities, but he could not follow through with the prosecutions because of a lack of evidence.

This shows that the government does not have the authority or ability to prosecute powerful men, even for crimes as obvious as stealing land.

The Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development has said that over 3 million hectares of public land has been appropriated by private individuals. Most of these individuals wield tremendous power in their districts.

The Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has said that these land-grabs have caused displacement and homelessness in Afghanistan.

IHRC spokesman Nadir Naderi says that approximately 208 families nationwide have lost their homes and property to theft by powerful men.

Human rights groups and government-watchers say that the Afghan parliament has also failed to keep the judiciary honest.

Mowlavi Gul Ahmad Amini, an MP in the House of Representatives, says that the governing body has not been aggressive enough on the issue. “There is law,” he says. “But unfortunately, it has not been implemented in a transparent way. This has caused doubt among the people, of the effectiveness of parliament.”

On Jul. 15, the attorney general announced that Mohammad Rafiq Mojadadi, the mayor of Herat city was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fine of 90 million dollars. He is accused of misusing his position and embezzlement surrounding the construction of a five-star hotel in Herat.

This is the first time that a high-ranking official was sentenced to prison and fines, though a few years ago some officials at the ministry of Hajj were investigated.

One Herat resident, Nooruallah, says that the prosecution of Mojadadi gives him hope. Still his hope is tempered with caution. “Finally” he says, “a high-ranking official is sentenced. But will this sentence be carried out? We shall see.”

Deputy Attorney General Enayatullah Kamal says that the sentence will be enforced “as soon as possible.”

If the Afghan people see more prosecutions of corrupt officials like Mojadadi, it may help restore some of the legitimacy of the criminal justice system in this country. This legitimacy is sorely needed, if Afghanistan is to fully recover from the social and political inequality of the last decades.

(*This is the third of a three-part investigative series on corruption in Afghanistan by Killid Weekly. IPS and Killid Media, an independent Afghan group, have been partners since 2004.)

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