While the justice sector in Afghanistan has progressed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, legal awareness and access to justice throughout the country are still lagging behind. A 2016 World Justice Project report found that only 23 per cent of Afghan citizens used the formal justice system to settle disputes, and less than half reported to have trust in the state courts. As a result, and combined with the pressure of social norms, potential justice users, particularly women, are deterred from using the formal system and are often unable to obtain fair remedies for grievances
In the first phase of its Supporting Access to Justice in Afghanistan (SAJA) program, IDLO worked to improve access to justice through activities targeting legal aid, prosecution of crimes of violence against women, the effectiveness of Women’s Protection Centers, and legal awareness. This program built on achievements of the National Justice Sector Strategy (NJSS) Program funded by the United States Department of State.
Specific activities under the SAJA program included:
- Improving the quality of legal aid services offered to the poor and disempowered
- Increasing the effectiveness of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) units in the Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting violence against women cases
- Improving the capacity of Women’s Protection Centers (WPCs) to implement better services to address beneficiaries’ needs
- Increasing awareness of women’s rights, legal rights and access to justice for target beneficiaries
Building on these achievements, phase II of the SAJA program seeks to address beneficiary needs and maximize sustainability efforts. IDLO will continue to work with the Afghanistan Legal Aid and Advocates Network to enhance the knowledge of legal aid lawyers and further advocacy efforts. To ensure increased capacity in the prosecution of elimination of violence against women cases, IDLO will continue to provide joint training opportunities for the relevant prosecution offices, and support and expand the case filing system. Lastly, IDLO will continue its efforts to improve the capacity of WPCs to implement better services to address beneficiaries’ needs, including legal capacity building to foster sustainability and exit strategies.
Through the SAJA program, IDLO has developed a series of legal awareness illustrated booklets designed to give the Afghan public an understanding of their rights. The books are available in three languages (Dari, Pashtu and English) and their illustrated nature makes them an effective tool even with illiterate populations.
In the Sunshine of Law
Out of the Shadow of Law