By Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 28, 2007 - The 37 judges in Afghanistan's Parwan province are the first of more than 450 judges within the Regional Command East area of responsibility to receive complete sets of Afghan law books. Delivered Aug. 25 by the Bagram Reconstruction Team and Army Lt. Col. Chris Jacobs, a attorney with the Combined Joint Task Force 82 Staff Judge Advocate Office, these books are the first to be distributed as part of an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and United States Agency for International Development initiative to distribute complete sets of Afghan law books to every judge in the country.
"For the first time since the Soviet era, each judge in Regional Command East will have complete access to up-to-date Afghan laws," said Army Capt. Ryan Kerwin, another attorney with Combined Joint Task Force 82. "This is significant, because most Afghan judges have either limited or no access to published law. This lack of legal resources made it very difficult, if not impossible, to correctly apply the law and ensure uniformity throughout the Afghan court system. The judges will now have the tools to make rulings based upon the laws of Afghanistan."
Each set of law books consists of 17 volumes that cover both Criminal Justice and civil law, including the constitution of Afghanistan, penal and civil codes, counternarcotics and human-rights law.
Parwan Chief Judge Fazil Rahmman Habibi and Head Army Prosecutor Zikria Shitab said they are very glad to receive the law books.
"I cannot remember the last time each judge had his own set of Afghan law books," Habibi said. "We really appreciate getting these books; we've been in need of them, but they are very expensive, so we are grateful to get them."
"We will be sure to distribute the books to all the judges of Parwan, they will gain a lot of knowledge from them," Shitab added.
It took several months to organize the project. To begin, thousands of books were published and prepared for delivery. Provincial reconstruction teams will help distribute the books to provincial courts throughout the country over the next several months.
Combined Joint Task Force 82 is working to improve the Afghan judicial system and help promote the rule of law in Afghanistan in various ways, from building courts and prosecutors' offices, and improving jails to providing legal resources and coordinating with agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"CJTF 82 has taken big steps to help push the rule of law in Afghanistan forward," Kerwin said. "Developing the rule of law in Afghanistan is a difficult task that will take decades. Judge advocates at both the headquarters and task forces have worked hard to help push the Afghan justice system forward."
(Air Force Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 82 Public Affairs.)