A group of 14 prominent Afghan women judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys recently completed a 2 week visit to the United States. The women took part in a training program arranged by the U.S. State Department's Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan.
The Afghan women were in the U.S. to learn how to bring about a working justice system in their country. According to Robert O'Brien, co-chairman of the public-private partnership that brought the delegation of Afghans to the United States, when Afghanistan was liberated from Taliban rule, "All of the rule-of-law infrastructure [in Afghanistan] had been totally destroyed -- from courthouses to law offices to supplies to files to libraries to law schools. There was nothing on the ground for the rule of law as we understand it."
During their stay in the U.S., the Afghan jurists participated in intensive legal seminars and consultations with senior officials from the state of California and the U.S. government, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The Afghan women were introduced to the American legal system's rules and procedures, mediation and methods for dealing with domestic violence, family disputes, mental health cases, and narcotics violations. Mock trials were held to give the Afghan lawyers a hands-on feel for the U.S. justice system.
At home, these Afghan lawyers face threats to their lives. The Taliban, infamous for its oppression of women, is making a come back. At the same time drug lords continue to escape justice and corruption is rampant. One of the judges dealing with Afghanistan's largest drug cases noted, "My one aim and goal is to take my country out of its current situation. I will do anything to fight the drug dealers."
In a meeting with the Afghan jurists, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Your American friends greatly admire your bravery and courage. It is your work in the tough environment of Afghanistan for women lawyers that will bring real reform and the rule of law to the Afghan people."