A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Afghanistan legal system

Justice, Afghanistan Style

afghanistan-map

 

By Alison Parker

There are some things in life you just don’t forget. I remember one summertime conversation with such pristine clarity that it is hard to believe that it happened almost two years ago. My dad, a Florida public defender for over 37 years, announced to my family that he was resigning from his job and moving to Afghanistan to help reform its criminal justice system.

Now, I’m not one to brag, but my dad is somewhat of a criminal defense legend in both my hometown and throughout the state. He defended the “Gainesville Ripper” in the early 90’s, which was the highest profile serial murder case that my hometown has ever seen, he has been five-time president of the Florida Public Defender Association, and was an adored trial practice professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

But more importantly, he’s nobly dedicated his life to representing the underprivileged — serial murderers, sex offenders, you name it; my dad always kept the details of his more colorful cases shielded from my older brother and me. That is exactly why going to Afghanistan just didn’t make any sense to me — why would he leave all of that behind for a war zone halfway across the world? After I got over that initial emotional hurdle (and believe me, it took a while),I realized that what he and the other lawyers in his program set out to do was an incredible challenge, and in many ways Afghanistan needs his expertise more than we do.  So, through a contract with the U.S. Department of State and a private entity, Dad was off to Afghanistan for two years.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations in the world–its economy relies largely on agriculture, but a devastating drought has made it near impossible to yield anything substantial in the last year. The nation boasts one of the highest mortality rates in the world — the average life expectancy is only 48 years. Between feuds with the Russians, the Taliban and now the United States, the nation has been in armed conflict since 1978; I think it goes without saying that it is a perilous place to be.

As “Senior Criminal Defense Advisor,” my dad is the head of a team of U.S. and Afghan attorneys and translators that work with the Afghanistan Ministry of Justice, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association and the Independent Legal Aid Board.  His team provides training and individual mentoring to both government and private practice criminal attorneys. He also provides technical assistance in the form of advice and recommendations on management, administration and funding.

After three years of study about our legal system, I wondered what system of justice my dad was dealing with in Afghanistan. I did some research and I thought I would share some of my findings.   (more…)

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