(Aug. 3, 2016) On June 30, 2016, after two years of discussions held among the leaders of the national unity government, Afghanistan inaugurated a center to fight corruption in the country. (Eftetahe Markaze Qazae-e Mubareza Ba Fasade Edari Dar Afghanistan [Inauguration of Judicial Center for Combatting Corruption in Afghanistan], BBC PERSIAN (June 30, 2016).)
At the opening ceremony for the new center, the President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, emphasized that “the establishment of this center shows the strong political will of the government to combat corruption.” (Markaze Adle Wa Qazaee Mubareza Ba Fasade Edari Eftetah Shod [A Judicial Center for Combatting Corruption Has Been Inaugurated], DARINEWS (June 30, 2016).) In his statement, the President acknowledged the widespread corruption in Afghanistan and stressed that the center should rigorously enforce the law and prosecute corruption crimes. (Freshta Neda, Markaze Adle Wa Qazaee Mubareza Alaihe Fasade Edari Rasman Eftetah Shod [A Judicial Center for Combatting Corruption Has Been Officially Inaugurated], RADIO AZADI (June 30, 2016).) During the ceremony, the government also stated that the center will be independent and free from any political interference. (Id.; Eftetahe Markaze Qazae-e Mubareza Ba Fasade Edari Dar Afghanistan, supra.)
There are a number of high-profile corruption cases in Afghanistan that have not been prosecuted and adjudicated in recent years. (Feroz Bashari, Establishment of Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center Critical to Fighting Corruption in Afghanistan, Government Media and Information Center website (June 27, 2016).) The establishment of the anti-corruption center was announced after the Kabul Municipality Office confirmed the arrest of two senior officials on corruption charges. (Sharif Amiri, AGO to Establish Anti-Corruption Center, TOLONEWS (last updated May 30, 2016).)
On August 25, 2008, Afghanistan became a State Party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and the government also enacted the Law on Supervision and Implementation of an Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2008. (U.N. Convention Against Corruption (Oct. 31, 2003, in force from Dec. 14, 2005), United Nations Treaty Collection website; TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL, NATIONAL INTEGRITY SYSTEM ASSESSMENT AFGHANISTAN 2015, at 26 (Feb. 16, 2016), Transparency International website.) Based on that Law, the Government of Afghanistan created the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC) as “the highest office for the coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy and for the implementation of administrative procedural reform in the country.” (Qanoni Nezarat Bar Tatbiq-e Strategy Mubareza Alih-e Fesad-e Edari [Law on Supervision and Implementation of an Anti-Corruption Strategy (July 29, 2008), OFFICIAL GAZETTE, No. 957), WEZARETE ADLEYA [Ministry of Justice].) HOOAC’s primary responsibility is coordination, policy development, and taking preventive measures to fight corruption. (History of HOOAC, HOOAC website (last visited July 27, 2016).) HOOAC does not have any judicial power, however, whereas the new center has the authority to prosecute serious corruption cases.
Functions and Staffing of the Center
The absence of a strong, official, governmental anti-corruption body was a significant obstacle in effectively prosecuting and investigating senior government officials such as ministers, deputy ministers, and governors. (Id.) The center is tasked with prosecuting and trying grave and high-profile corruption cases and coordinating anti-corruption efforts nationwide. (Neda, supra.)
The center will be led by the Attorney General of Afghanistan. (Id.) According to a news report published on July 14, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) stated, “staff recruitment for the anti-corruption justice center is in the final stages. The center will be operational as soon as the recruitment process is completed.” (Sayed Sharif Amiri, Delayed Anti-Corruption Center Frustrates Oversight Office, TOLONEWS (July 14, 2016).)
In addition, a new call center will be established to receive complaints and recommendations from the public. A memorandum of understanding has also been signed between the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Interior to better facilitate cooperation between the two institutions. (Ahmad Farshad Saleh, Afghanistan to Open New Anti-Corruption Center, ATNNEWS (May 29, 2016).)
Some critics have called the establishment of the center “a symbolic move as a sign of cooperation in fighting corruption ahead of and in the wake of international summits [in Warsaw and Brussels] on the issue.” (Mir Abed Joenda, Monitoring Bodies Warily Welcome New Anti-Corruption Center, TOLONEWS (last updated July 1, 2016).) The critics stated that while the government of Afghanistan has failed to efficiently combat corruption, it occasionally takes some symbolic steps prior to international summits on Afghanistan to show to the world that there are serious, ongoing anti-corruption operations in the country. (Id.)
The Chairman of HOOAC has reportedly criticized the delay in commencement of the work of the anti-corruption judicial center. (Delayed Anti-Corruption Center Frustrates Oversight Office, supra.) Nevertheless, according to one news report, it is expected that the establishment and operation of the center will decrease the level of corruption and send a strong message to high-level corrupt authorities that they will no longer go unpunished. (Bashari, supra.)
Prepared by Mahir Hazim, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Tariq Ahmad, Foreign Law Specialist.