By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 26, 2009 - Coalition forces have placed an emphasis on the rule of law as they serve as mentors for the Afghan army's military justice system, a senior officer involved with the effort said. "I work very closely with their military justice system from the corps level down and mentor the Afghan National Army legal training, as well as oversee and mentor cases from arrest through court martial," Army Lt. Col. Pam McArthur told bloggers and online journalists during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable March 24. McArthur is the judge advocate for the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command South and senior mentor to the Afghan National Army's 205th Corps.
"I'd like to point out that the military justice system in the 205th Corps was already functioning at a high level before I got here," McArthur said. "The corps legal staff was already processing cases, conducting courts martial and generally handling everyday business."
Since the 205th Corps was functioning well, McArthur said she also was able to work with the Afghan National Police.
"I recently developed some training directed at Afghan constitutional rights as they pertain to the Afghan police, and we are currently seeking to have this training approved by the national police leadership," she said.
The Afghan constitution is similar in ways to the U.S. Constitution, she said, and the training is intended to teach the police to help protect Afghan civilians' rights.
"I try to impress upon them that confessions have to be voluntary; people have the right to a defense attorney; if someone doesn't want you in their home, you have to go get a court order," she explained. "It is not only your responsibility to be the arm of force of your government, but it is also your responsibility to protect the rights of the people in your areas."
Aside from training, Afghan Regional Security Integration Command South also has used police training teams, embedded training teams and provincial reconstruction teams to help teach the rule of law to Afghan soldiers and policemen.
McArthur said it would be unrealistic to think that corruption doesn't exist among the Afghan police and army.
"It's impossible to think that we could ever follow around every ANP officer or employee and make sure they didn't do some level of corruption," she said. "All I know is that when I go out on the mentoring missions, when we have allegations of police misconduct, that they are aggressively pursued."
In the past, police were known to take bribes or "shake people down" for money, McArthur explained.
The command is acting to counteract corruption by ensuring the pay system for soldiers and policemen is fixed so they are paid on time and more reliably, she said. The ANA and ANP are expected to uphold a higher professional standard.
"The Afghan people are smart and very justice-minded, and they are very aware of the events in their country as it pertains to the legal system," McArthur noted. "They need to know that there is a punishment system. They need to know that they have rights."
(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby is assigned to the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)