The importance of raising awareness about citizens’ rights, including how the legal system works, was the subject of a UNAMA-supported TV debate in northern Balkh province.
A panel of judicial officials discussed topics including the rights of a person when arrested by the police; the differences between criminal and civil cases; and the availability of legal aid services.
Many Afghans, particularly those in more remote areas, are unaware of their legal rights and do not have ready access to justice. This lack of awareness is brought to the forefront when they come in contact with the justice system, such as through the violation of a law or being accused of a crime.
Sarbas Sabawon, panelist and Head of the International Legal Foundation – Afghanistan in Mazar-e-Sharif, said that the Government has a role in raising public awareness about the legal system. This could be achieved through public information campaigns.
Nargis Hafidzada, Chief Judge of Balkh’s Juvenile Court, noted that the Afghan Constitution gives citizens the right to access legal representation and an interpreter, if language is an issue.
Ms. Hafidzada said that in practical terms, budgetary constraints had meant that the law had not always been implemented to its fullest extent.
Panelists emphasized the importance of getting a lawyer, as they were a knowledgeable individual who knew about the law and legal procedures.
The event was pre-recorded and broadcast four times on Ariana Balkh TV to an estimated audience of one million people across most of Afghanistan’s northern region. It was also broadcast on Ariana Balkh FM and made available via social media channels.
Balkh province shares an international border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is an important trading route to the north.