A challenging task, but leading the way: The Police Ombudsman investigates misconduct of security officials

Kabul, June 2016. Two local girls were kidnapped by armed men in Baghlan province. But the district police commander kept neglecting to investigate the case. Our team investigated the case and we realised that the commander and one of his officers supported the kidnappers. The involvement of district security officials in the case became clear. Luckily, both officers and the kidnappers were arrested and the two girls were released”, tells Naqibullah Bashari, head of the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been rebuilt since 2001. Their task is to ensure the security of the citizens and defend the country’s sovereignty. However, what if the security officials themselves face allegations of misconduct? This is when the Office of the Police Ombusdman (OPO) steps in. Located with the renowned Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Naqibullah Bashari, a former prosecutor, investigates allegations of misconduct against members of the national security sector.

Investigate possible human rights violations

The OPO handles complaints both from the public and the police on violations of human rights committed by security officials. In addition to Kabul OPO runs sub-offices with two staff members in Herat, Nangahar, Bamyan and Balkh provinces.

Naqibullah Bashari tells that there is still a need to increase personnel in these offices: “As part of the transition of security responsibilities from international forces to the Afghan, we realised that our office should stronger monitor the human rights conduct of Afghan security forces and assess the activities of security officials based on the complaints we receive.”

New memorandum gives more rights to Police Ombudsman

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) recently  signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will further enhance cooperation. With the new MoU, the AIHRC will have further rights to address the transgression of the security officials in Afghanistan. The development of the Memorandum was supported by EUPOL Afghanistan.

Now that the Memorandum of Understanding has been signed, the MoI is expected to instruct all Afghan National Police (ANP) units in Kabul and in the provinces to disseminate the document at operational level. EUPOL, together with other international counterparts, has provided strategic advice to the MoI and OPO on drafting the MoU. However, this is not the end. EUPOL and other international counterparts will support the MoI to initiate internal guidelines on the MoU by establishing a working relationship between OPO and the MoI’s Inspector General’s Office. Furthermore, other plans foresee that possible violations of children’s rights by security officials will in the future also be closer scrutinized.  

Making not only friends

Investigating possible misconduct within the security forces will naturally not be greeted with enthusiasm by all members of the ANP. Mr. Naqibullah knows that he will also make enemies when carrying out his duties, but he is convinced to have the support of the highest national authorities for this crucial work.

EUPOL continues to support

EUPOL and other international counterparts are committed to support the OPO as well as the further cooperation between the OPO and MoI. EUPOL’s Human Rights and Gender Expert, Zsolt Szalay has been involved in drafting the MoU. “For a better relationship between the citizens and the police, the ANP must be professional, transparent and accountable’, he says, “We, as EUPOL, plan to facilitate the relationship between the police General Training Command and the OPO. For example by organising future training courses, possibly Core Investigator Courses for OPO officers. This will ensure that members of OPO clearly understand the training the police officers receive and support the sustainability of OPO for better implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding.”