A hybrid model of justice system in Afghanistan

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, the country’s justice system needed rebuilding and radical innovation. Most criminal offences and civil disputes in Afghanistan were dealt with by non-state justice providers, often local councils called jirgas/shuras. 

Many citizens preferred these to Afghanistan’s state justice system. However, they excluded women, and sometimes violated Afghan law and international human rights. Moreover, jirgas/shuras’ decisions are not recognised by the state.  

One example is the practice of baad. In the case of murder, to prevent revenge killings, it is sometimes recommended by jirgas/shuras that the offender’s close female relative be married to a victim’s close relative, a practice which violates the human rights of women as well as Afghan law. 

To address these issues, research led by Professor Ali Wardak developed a ‘hybrid model of justice system in Afghanistan’ which combines Afghan state and non-state justice systems, and existing human rights institutions in mutually constitutive ways. 

Supported by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this research has had significant influence on legal reform in Afghanistan.  

The key recommendations of the `hybrid model' were written into Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice draft ‘Law on Dispute Resolution Jirga and Shura’ in 2010 and in 2016 were implemented into the new updated draft ‘Law on Conciliatory Jirgas in Civil Disputes’, for approval by the Afghan Parliament. 

USW’s work has also led to social change, contributing to positive change in the attitudes of people towards women’s rights in Afghanistan and the rejection of and reduction in the practice of baad.