Balkh Team

Landscape Description

Balkh is located in the northern region of the country, and its name derives from the ancient city of Balkh, near the modern town.  Balkh province borders Uzbekistan in the north, Tajikistan in the north-east, Kunduz province in the east, Samangan and Sari Pul provinces in the south-east, and Jawzjan province in the west.  The province covers an area of 16,840 km2.  Almost half of the province is mountainous or semi-mountainous terrain (48.7%), and 50.2% is made up of flat land.  The province is divided into 15 districts.  In 2008, Balkh had an approximate population of 1,144,800.  There are 119,378 households in the province, and households, on average, have seven members.  Around 66% of the population lives in the rural districts.  The major ethnic groups that live in Balkh province are Tajiks and Pashtuns, followed by Uzbek, Hazaras, Turkmen, Arab, and Baluch.

Program Summary/Description

Starting in 2007, JSSP provided training and advisory services to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Afghan National Police (ANP) and prosecutors working with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).  From 2007-2010, JSSP executed both the longer “Police-Prosecutor Cooperation Program” and the shorter “Focused District Development – L” program for detectives and prosecutors.  In 2010, JSSP-R expanded its program of instruction to include criminal defense attorneys and judges handling criminal matters.   In 2011, JSSP developed a comprehensive two-month legal training program titled “Focused District Development - Law” targeting all judicial actors.  The program taught basic legal knowledge and practical skills.  In 2011, JSSP renamed this course “Advanced Continuing Legal Education for Afghanistan” (ACLEA).  In addition, the Balkh Team executed follow-on select legal seminars (i.e., juvenile justice).  All courses helped trainees perform their duties in a more competent, effective, and efficient manner.  In addition, many of the trainees learned how to teach in JSSP’s Training of Trainers (TOT) program.  TOT graduates are capable of teaching fellow co-workers within their departments.  As part of its comprehensive Rule of Law efforts, JSSP staff provided follow-on mentoring to ensure that trainees could and did apply the knowledge they gained in class. 

Program Components

JSSP designed, developed and implemented a robust curriculum that included a Police/Prosecutor Coordination Program (P/PCP) which was a seven-month, eight-module program consisting of four instructional modules and four mentoring modules, standardized lesson plans, instructional materials, and instructional activities.  The Focused District Development Law Program (FDD-L) was a one month basic legal knowledge course.  The Focused District Development - Law Program (FDD-Law) and the Advanced Continuing Legal Education Program (ACLEA) provided a structured 240-hour training designed to teach basic legal knowledge and practical skills.  The Balkh Team mentored the Afghan judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and CID officers.  The JSSP Balkh Team’s operational area included the provinces of Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, and Sari Pul.

Impact/Accomplishments

Balkh training statistics for JSSP core classes: (PPC/P, FDD-L, FDD-Law, ACLEA) as of January 2013, when JSSP transferred the program to the International Development Law Organization: 


Despite many challenges, JSSP succeeded in training 35 judges, 80 prosecutors, 70 CID officers and 31 defense attorneys in the Balkh region.  JSSP trained some 26% of the legal and justice professionals in Balkh.

The 2013 JSSP Qualitative Study revealed that judges receiving JSSP training and mentoring in Balkh were more aware of alternative sentencing options, such as referral for drug rehabilitation rather than a jail commitment, or a referral to family court for possible divorce proceedings rather than a criminal action based on “running-away”.

 These same judges also understood the importance of preserving a suspect’s rights throughout the criminal justice process.  

Defense attorneys were no longer viewed by these judges as ineffective.

Because of JSSP training and mentoring, defense attorneys incorporated independent investigative techniques when preparing a case for trial; these included interviewing the client as well as witnesses, reviewing medical and physical evidence, researching applicable laws, and preparing defense statements which incorporated the defense attorney’s findings.

As represented in the following example, JSSP efforts resulted in improvements to the Balkh justice system:

A judge, who was an ACLEA graduate adjudicated a case in which a man was charged with the murder of his son-in-law.

The case was originally declared a suicide but additional evidence led to the charge of murder against the defendant.

However, the judge was unsatisfied with the evidence in the case and ordered the trial prosecutor to undertake further investigation and collect additional evidence. The judge credited his JSSP training for increasing his capacity to analyse facts, apply the law, as well as identify gaps in the investigation.

Significant events

1.       The Balkh Chief Prosecutor specifically selected a prosecutor that was assigned to specialize in family violence cases because the prosecutor had graduated from JSSP training and would maintain gender and juvenile rights.

2.      Various legal and judicial actors and authorities expressed appreciation and credited the training and mentoring sessions with increasing their ability to analyze facts, apply the law, identify gaps in the investigation and make quality improvements. 

3.       Donations of office equipment, supplies, vehicles and technical kits to Balkh and other surrounding provinces supported institutional strengthening.

4.       The number of female justice professionals participating in training increased year-on-year. These individuals came from various legal and judicial entities, and were interested in gender and juvenile issues.

5.       A Master Training of Trainers (TOT) course for Afghan TOT graduate trainers was delivered to equip participants to teach new TOT recruits in justice institutions. The expansion of this training has developed and maintained a cadre of TOT instructors with the capacity to perpetuate education and training in the region.

6.       Case Management System (CMS) training was conducted in a number of legal and judicial entities, and relevant offices were established to run CMS and to maintain a transparent organized filing and tracking system.

Challenges

1.       Lack of equipment, law books, and office supplies

2.       Lack of staff and space

3.       Transportation issues

4.       Inadequate salaries

5.       Discrepancies between the formal and informal legal systems

6.       Issues with violence against women and juveniles, including runaways, forced marriages, domestic violence, and murders

7.       Security issues

Transition

In January 2013, the Balkh JSSP Regional Team completed its last JSSP training.  Over the past six years, JSSP has greatly impacted the justice sector in Balkh and surrounding provinces and made significant contributions to increasing the capacity of justice professionals through training and mentoring.  The Chief Judge of the Balkh Provincial Primary Court noted that as a direct result of JSSP’s engagement, his judges have demonstrated marked improvements in their knowledge of the law and the quality of the legal system has greatly improved.  Balkh justice sector counterparts expressed overwhelming gratitude to JSSP for its contributions to strengthening the rule of law in the region.  The JSSP Balkh operations were handed over to IDLO on 29 January 2013.

A Primer for Practitioners

Tool to practical introduction to rule of law development in Afghanistan, cross-referencing training and educational support material.

Latest Report

Women's Access to Justice in Afghanistan: Since the fall of the Taliban in 2002, gains in women’s rights and access to justice in Afghanistan have been remarkable, yet women’s rights remain extremely limited.