Tuesday, March 10, 2009

British foster sharia courts to counter Afghan extremists

BRITISH officials are helping to establish informal sharia courts in southern Afghanistan to discourage Afghans from turning to the Taliban for justice.

Ben Farmer Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan

State-sanctioned Islamic and tribal justice in remote regions of Helmand province has led to councils of village and tribal elders adjudicating disputes over land and water rights.

Verdicts based on Islamic law and Pashtun tribal code allow Afghans to bypass the notoriously slow and corrupt Government courts and are aimed at preventing the Taliban from exploiting festering disputes.

"Informal justice is almost what the Taliban started by offering - it is what they continue to focus on," the Foreign Office official leading the effort to rebuild Helmand, Hugh Powell, said.

The Taliban gained power in the mid-1990s by promising order after years of civil war and rule by predatory warlords.

Its courts mete out swift justice and are a popular alternative to the official system.

British officials helping the Afghan Government set up the justice councils acknowledge the new bodies compromise international plans to deliver a modern, largely secular, legal system.

"What we want to understand and establish is a system of governance and justice which enjoys broad legitimacy in the community," one official said.

"That may well need some compromises in terms of best practice for the international community in Afghanistan, but the point about it is it will work."

Justice councils form part of a wider system of local government boards to link traditional local tribal power in Helmand with the Kabul regime. Poor security means elected district councils promised by the constitution have never emerged and Hamid Karzai's Government is seen as out of touch.

To bridge the gap, elders in British-controlled districts have begun forming boards charged with drawing up their own plans for security, health, education and the administration of justice.

No comments:

Post a Comment