Kabul, August 2016. The fight against corruption – one of the key challenges to Afghan society – has been boosted by a EUPOL project aimed at improving the conditions of Afghan prosecutors in conducting criminal investigations. 14 state-of-the-art interview rooms were handed over to the Afghan Attorney General’s Office (AGO) by the EUPOL Head of Mission Ms. Pia Stjernvall.
EUPOL has been mentoring and advising the Civilian Anti-Corruption and Military Anti-Corruption Units of the AGO for more than five years. The advisers identified the lack of designated offices for conducting interviews as a major problem for the AGO. Faced with a situation where prosecutors have no other option but to squeeze suspects and witnesses alike into their cramped offices when conducting interviews, EUPOL Criminal Justice Expert, Mr. Stefan Muresan, designed the project to improve the working conditions of the prosecutors – and thus increase the efficiency of anti-crime work.
Improving the safety of investigators
The new premises, whose construction was financed by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), will permit the conducting of hearings to meet both international and national legal provisions. “According to international standards, conducting interviews in a confidential environment is an essential part of a proper interview situation," said Mr. Muresan.
The facilities have been equipped with computers, audio and video recording devices as well as a CCTV monitoring system. Another crucial addition is the provision of a two-way mirror, which will give prosecutors the chance to perform line-ups in the future – a method of gathering evidence in criminal cases which the Afghan AGO has never used before. Besides the confidentiality of interviews, the equipment provided will improve the gathering of evidence and the safety of interviewers. It will also mitigate opportunities for corruption during investigations and ensure transparency and accountability as well as promote the observation of human rights and respect for gender issues during interviews.
Reform and partnership
Speaking at the handover ceremony, the Afghan Attorney General Mr. Mohammad Farid Hamidi expressed gratitude for the support in reforming the AGO and described the new facilities as a symbol of the transition of the AGO. “These premises will go a long way in helping to ensure that individuals are given a fair trial and that their human rights are respected,” he said.
For her part, the EUPOL Head of Mission, Ms. Pia Stjernvall, stressed the importance of international cooperation in Afghanistan: “By supporting the implementation of the rule of law together with GIZ, we are supporting all Afghans. EUPOL has supported the capacity building of the Attorney General’s Office since 2007. I hope that these new facilities will strengthen your work.”
Pursuing human rights and justice
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been developed by a working group comprised of Afghan prosecutors and EUPOL specialists to ensure the proper use of the new facilities. “EUPOL will conduct workshops to provide guidelines on the sustainable and efficient use of the interview rooms from a technical, tactical and legal point of view, in accordance with the SOP provisions,” said Mr. Stefan Muresan.
“Fighting terrorism, promoting human rights and justice are all part of a joint mission. There can be no security without the rule of law. We therefore strongly appreciate the support of EUPOL,” the Attorney General, Mr. Hamidi, concluded.