Defense lawyers have a long history in the justice system of Afghanistan. Attorneys were once managed by the Supreme Court and then the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). After the fall of the Taliban regime, the MOJ decided to establish an independent body to organize and manage advocates. The Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP), in cooperation with the International Bar Association (IBA), worked closely with MOJ to develop a strategy to establish an independent body to oversee legal practitioners, which resulted in the drafting and passage of the Advocates Law in 2007. Additionally, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) was created in July of 2008, during the inaugural General Assembly attended by 468 advocates from across Afghanistan, to govern attorney conduct.
JSSP worked closely with MOJ to ensure that AIBA was organized and established. After AIBA was founded, JSSP assisted in its development by providing administrative support and technical assistance in drafting by-laws and a code of conduct, forming committees, assisting in coordination of meetings, and providing training with follow-on mentoring for advocates throughout Afghanistan. JSSP also assisted in organizing and obtaining U.S. Embassy funding for the second General Assembly in October 2011, during which association officers were elected and by-law amendments were debated.
JSSP assisted in drafting the Advocates Law and in the development of Afghanistan’s first independent bar association. JSSP, with the assistance of IBA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), organized the first general assembly meeting of the AIBA. JSSP also provided support in obtaining IBA membership for the AIBA. The JSSP Ministry of Justice Assistance Section (MOJAS) continued operational capacity support of AIBA by assisting with meeting coordination, preparation of governing documents, and development of procedure manuals for day-to-day operations. In addition, AIBA members benefit directly from live trainings conducted by JSSP National Legal Advisors (Afghan attorneys) and the wide distribution of video recorded trainings.
AIBA is now a fully functional bar association recognized by the IBA. In 2012, JSSP trained over 200 AIBA attorneys from Kabul, Balkh, Nangarhar, Kunduz, and Herat. Attorneys were trained on the Penal Code, Afghanistan Constitution, Interim Criminal Procedure Code, Advocates Law, Law on the Organization and Jurisdiction of Courts, accused and suspect rights, defense statement writing skills, family case representation, pre-trial through post-trial duties of defense attorneys, basic defense strategies, alternatives to incarceration, attempted Zina (adultery) and “running away” case defenses, and forensic evidence. These trainings resulted in a qualitative improvement in writing and interviewing skills, and legal knowledge of AIBA attorneys throughout Afghanistan. JSSP also conducted joint workshops with defense attorneys, judges, and prosecutors on the role of defense attorneys in the justice system.