The right of a criminal defendant to be represented by counsel is enshrined in the Constitution of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). Several other statutes have extended this right to counsel to women and children in civil cases. The Constitution, the Interim Criminal Procedure Code, the Law of Organization and Jurisdiction of Courts, the Advocates Law, and the Legal Aid Regulation specifically provide that these individuals are entitled to legal representation.
The Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP), through its Legal Aid Team, has worked closely with the Legal Aid Department (LAD) of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on a number of initiatives throughout Afghanistan to educate and train defense attorneys to better serve the indigent in criminal cases, and women and children in civil matters. JSSP has worked closely with LAD to ensure that these fundamental rights are realized by providing mentoring, technical advice, on-the-job training, curriculum development, and legal training to MOJ LAD attorneys.
LAD attorneys routinely receive training on topics ranging from pretrial investigation to appeals. Through the mentoring process, JSSP Afghan attorneys enhance their mentoring skills and improve the quality of legal advice provided to their mentees. Training curricula are key components of the legal aid program. JSSP identifies areas of concern and weakness and train attorneys to meet those challenges. Sometimes these challenges present themselves because it is a novel area of law or because the defense goes against cultural norms. Each curriculum comprises a basic defense strategy and is tailored to address the areas where defense attorneys need the most training.
JSSP has been training LAD defense attorneys in 5 provinces in the areas of basic defense strategy, alternatives to incarceration, attempted Zina (adultery), “running away,” and forensic evidence. Moreover, JSSP has developed a database for LAD to track the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) training received by each defense attorney.