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Summary Justice Still Rampant in Afghan Province

De facto courts flourish in areas outside government control.
By Qadeer Ghafori

Local security forces are still failing to act against summary justice procedures in the central Afghan province of Ghor, a year after a high-profile case in which a teenage girl was filmed being stoned to death.

In November 2015, 19-year-old Rukhshana was killed by a group of armed men in the village of Ghalmin, some 40 kilometres from Ghor’s main town Firozkoh, after she was accused of adultery.

A video emerged showing the young woman buried in a hole in the ground with just her head showing, while men threw stones at her. She could be heard praying and moaning as she was struck.

(See also Summary Courts Deal Out Brutal Justice in Afghanistan's Ghor Province https://goo.gl/WIKHvt).

Her case highlighted the power that de facto courts still wield in more lawless parts of Afghanistan where state institutions struggle to maintain their authority.

Hajira Bashiri, from the provincial department of women’s affairs, said that a culture of impunity helped fuel growing levels of gender violence.

“Illegal courts and violence against women are on the rise because the government has failed to pursue the armed criminals accused of violence,” she said.

“Almost a year has passed since Rukhshana was stoned to death. Her killers were less than three kilometres away from the centre of Ghor, but shockingly the government has so far been unable to arrest them.”

Fareeda Nasiri, head of women’s affairs at the Ghor office of the Afghanistan Independent Humans Rights Commission (AIHRC), agreed.

“The government doesn’t control the remote, rural parts of Ghor province, especially the districts and also some areas around the centre of Ghor, which has resulted in the establishment of illegal courts and tribunals,” she said.

“The military and justice officials don’t arrest or punish the people involved in such trials, which means that cases are increasing.”

The proliferation of militias was exacerbating the situation, she continued.

“The presence of armed groups that the government is unable to disarm also has a significant effect on the rising number of illegal justice processes in Ghor province. The main problem is that government can’t gain access to some districts and even to some areas near the city. The government has been unable to arrest the killers of Rukhshana. There is also no security; girls cannot access education, their schools are closed and women are deprived of justice.”

Colonel Murtaza Musleh, Ghor’s deputy police chief, agreed that tribal courts flourished in areas controlled by the insurgents, but denied accusations that his forces had failed to act against this phenomenon.

“Police forces in Ghor province are always working hard and making maximum efforts to capture the criminals accused of violence against women and involvement in illegal trials,” he said.

Islamic experts said that, contrary to popular opinion, such tribal justice procedures violated core religious principles.

Abdul Ghani Jame, a religious scholar, said, “Unofficial and de facto courts are forbidden in Islam because they don’t follow appropriate judicial procedures and justice is not done.”

He added, “The recent trials of women by some radical groups were against Islamic Sharia… the government views these radical groups as armed insurgents.”

“People who are not responsible and put people on trial without any legal authority or documentation are violating Islamic law and have nothing to do with Islam. Such illegal trials can never be related to Islam.”

Mansoor Khisrao and Syed Maroof were two participants of the debate and said that such debates should be held and expanded in all the remote districts and area.

Audience members said that the event had been a valuable opportunity to discuss a key local issue.

“Such debates are really effective in educating people and we hope that similar events are held more often so that people will be even better informed,” said debate participant Syed Maroof Saida.

Another participant, Mansoor Khisrao, added, “We hope that more such debates are held, especially in remote districts and areas, to help raise awareness levels.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiativefunded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.

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