“Informal justice”

Back in November, I had a long, frustrating conversation with another expat about the merits of Afghanistan’s “informal justice system,” which isn’t really a system but rather a huge collection of widely varying local dispute resolution practices. The other expat romanticized these practices, peppering her speech with  jirgas and shuras and tribal elders. I asked her if she had talked to many Afghans about their experiences with “informal justice.” She said she had not, because her employer did not allow her to move beyond the most heavily garrisoned areas of Kabul.

I sighed, thinking how ridiculous it was that this woman was being paid as a researcher and expert in the rule of law, and snarkily recounted the absurd/scary experiences of several Afghan friends who had to deal with “informal justice.”  I didn’t mince words. The researcher grimaced.

But holy sh*t, folks, those stories of beatings, extortion and discrimination pale in comparison to this kernel of horror from TIME:

Abdul Wahid Zhian, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Organization of Afghanistan, a nonprofit that provides free legal assistance, had to leave his native Ghazni province a year ago after taking on two controversial runaway cases that resulted in his receiving death threats. The first case involved a father who had raped and impregnated his daughter but was acquitted of charges. In the second, two girls were raped by their father and brother. Yet the men were pardoned, in the interest of resolving an interfamily dispute, by a tribal jirga that ultimately decided that matters could be made right by executing the lawyer and the girls. (They are now in hiding.) “We have a cultural problem here that undermines the law,” says Zhian, who is now seeking asylum abroad. He remains adamant that “running away is a right, not a crime.”

I…I…I’m at a loss here.

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