Herat Appellate Prosecution Directorate

Interview with the Chief of Herat Appellate Prosecution Office, Khoja Abdul Haq Ahmadi

How would the Criminal Procedure Code Treat Afghan Prisoners Transferred from Iran?

The travel to Herat province took less than two hours. The purpose of this trip was press coverage of Afghan prisoners transferred from Iran to Afghanistan. The airplane was set to take off at 4:00 in the afternoon. When we arrived at Herat Airport, our colleagues from Appellate Court of Herat province were waiting for us. The next day, we headed towards Islam Qala border, the border between Afghanistan and Iran. Security measures were tight, paving the way for the Afghan authorities to receive 199 Afghan prisoners. The official process took seven (7) hours on the other side of the border, Iran’s land.

After the prisoner exchange, I found the opportunity to have a conversation with Khoja Abdul Haq Ahmadi, Chief of Herat Appellate Prosecution Office.  He began his appointment to this position a year ago. 

I went to his office and after a brief greeting began my interview:

I began by asking about structure, equipment, and workload of the Herat Appellate Court.

Answer:  First, I would like to thank the Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, and the Leadership Board of Attorney General’s Office (AGO).  Following the appointment of Mr. Hamidi as Attorney General of Afghanistan, there began initiation of various corrective programs in the center and provinces, and effective reforms took place in the AGO.

Regarding the AGO structure in Herat, there are 125 staff in Herat Appellate Prosecution Office. Out of which, including the Chief, about 65 professional staff, and 25 administrative and service staff are busy working here. 

Compared to the incidents that took place in Herat city, the existing office equipment is not sufficient. We asked for more equipment from the center and fortunately received positive answer from Administrative and Finance Directorate. They helped us as much as possible. The allotment sent to us provided office reconstruction, provision of desks and chairs and computers.

In the meantime, there are foreign partner institutions helping us sometimes. For instance, the NATO Resolute Support Headquarters donated 10 desktop computers, 10 printers, one (1) photocopy machine, and 30 chairs. The Italians set up the Prosecution Office’s Hall sound system. Other local and international institutions help us in different sections. 

Obviously, the Appellate Prosecution Office of Herat province owns no building yet; have you or the central office taken any measure in this regard?

Answer:  Before my appointment to this position, we had no facilities in the center and districts. Now, the building where we are working in is property of Herat Governor's Office. We submitted a specific proposal in this regard to the center for processing and proposed to the Herat province as well. About 40 jeribs (land measurement unit, one jerib=200m2) of land were allocated for the Prosecution offices in the districts and its documents sent to Land Authority Directorate in Herat province.

 

After 50 years, the Herat Central Prosecution Office received allocation of 50 jeribs of land in the best location of the city. The Presidential Office received the land transfer documents sent by the Secretaries of Prosecution Office, where after the decree of Presidential Office, the land will be possessed. We can consider it as an important achievement of the Herat Prosecution Office.

Mr. Ahmadi, given the changes made in terms of technical facilities, how do you see provision of justice services to the Herat citizens? Have you gained satisfaction of people with these changes?

Answer:  Fortunately, satisfaction level of people from Herat Prosecution Office is at its highest. Work speed, on time processing of cases, nice behavior with clients and reception facilities are points that have attracted satisfaction of people. In the past, there was even no chair for clients to sit on. Now, in addition to these facilities, there is a library with a TV on the wall in the Waiting Hall for people.

Regarding professional performance, we attempt to address cases as soon as possible and submit them to the Court. Regarding counter-corruption and violence against women, AGO’s policy is strict.

We know from the meeting we have with civil society, media, elders and area representatives that they are happy with the performances of Herat Prosecution Office and it is an honor for us.

Mr. Ahmadi, as you are aware, counter-corruption has been a priority for the National Unity Government. In the meantime, the AGO leadership also emphasizes fighting corruption, what is the Herat Province Appellate Prosecution Office approach in this regard?

Answer:  We have joint meetings with our partners in this regard. We are attempting to provide whatever people expect of us. We confront strictly and legally with those who have inappropriate behavior with clients or delay their cases.

Providing the capacity building opportunities is important in the administrations. AGO’s leadership considers this point very serious too. Establishing libraries in the provinces is part of Central Administration’s plan, what have you done regarding establishment of legal libraries for Herat Prosecution Directorate?

Answer:  Before, we maintained books in a room in a disorganized order.   We built a hall and placed bookshelves in it. Now, in addition to holding programs in this hall, our staff can use these books as well.

We request Information and Public Relations Directorate to increase allocation of AGO books in Herat province. This way we can have a variety of books in our library.

Security is another very important issue, which is always associated with concerns. Unfortunately, we have lost many of our colleagues due to insecurity and terrorist attacks.  On the other side, security officials in the center always emphasize the security of AGO staff. What measures does Herat Province Appellate Prosecution Directorate take concerning security?

 

Answer:  Following the attempts made by AGO’s leadership, Presidential Office issued a decree regarding security provision for prosecutors and judges. We also had meetings with the Herat Governor and Military Council of Herat province resulting in decisions made and executed accordingly.

It is the duty of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to accompany District Prosecutors from their home to their work places. In the cities, police monitor prosecutors’ residences and notify Detective Police; and if some suspected cases are seen, they follow them up immediately.

Mr. Ahmadi, when it comes to addressing criminal incidents, cooperation between police and prosecutor is an important point, how do you scale such cooperation in Herat province?

Answer:  Coordination exists between Detective Institutions such as National Security Directorate (NDS) and ANP. The NDS and ANP consider themselves bound where most of the incidents occur. In fact, there is unconditional cooperation available between them. One of the reasons for referral of incidents to the Prosecution Office is our good and consistent coordination with Afghan Security Forces.

Herat is one of the most populated provinces of Afghanistan. I asked Mr. Ahmadi about types of crimes: What are the most frequent types of crimes in this province?

Answer: Given the population of Herat city, the crime rate is high. This means, after Kabul, most of the criminal incidents happen in Herat city. Since the beginning of the year, we have investigated 2300 cases and 90% of these cases are completed or at least submitted to the Primary Court.

The majority of these cases involve theft, narcotics crimes, and juvenile violations. We also investigated 200 cases of violence against women.  Additionally, investigations included 70 cases of corruption with accusation of over 120 people. Most criminal offences in this province are due to poverty and unemployment.

Mr. Ahmadi, you mentioned in your speech about addressing 200 files of violence against women. Meanwhile, fighting violence against women is one of the priorities of the AGO. Therefore, AG Hamidi established the Deputy Office of Violence against Women, Juvenile Violations and Supporting Human Rights within the frame of the AGO. Now, what is the extent of violence against women in Herat province? In your opinion, what is the reason of violence against women in Herat province?    

Answer:  Yes, establishment of Deputy Office of Violence against Women within the structure of the AGO is an important step towards fighting violence against women. Prosecution Office of Violence against Women is active in most of the provinces. In reality, a strong commitment exists in the AGO to fight against this phenomenon.   

As you mentioned earlier, the Herat province is one of the most populated cities in Afghanistan. People from different locations of the country live in Herat province, meaning that, people from different traditional backgrounds live here together. In addition, I do not believe the cases of violence against women increased in Herat province. In my opinion, women’s access to justice has increased. They believe the Prosecution Office to be a safe place. Families could easily discuss their complaints here and follow the result of its proceedings. When other families see the cases of women settled and offenders punished, they trust to visit prosecution offices.

Registered statistics of the current year – compared with previous year – shows 9% reduction in violence against women. Department of Women’s Affairs and other institutions that are active for women’s rights in Herat province, shows the same statistics.   

We are hopeful, the culture of patriarchy to be abandoned gradually. Women play an essential role in the family. Eventually, Afghanistan will provide an appropriate solution for elimination of violence against women in the families.

Mr. Ahmadi! As you know, on March 14 of the current year, there was a transfer of 199 Afghan prisoners from Islamic Republic of Iran to Herat prison. The Iran Supreme Court sentenced about 60 of them to the death penalty. What is the Afghan Penal Code’s strategy towards these people?       

Answer:  This is not the first transfer of prisoners from Iran to Afghanistan.  Two times before, we completed this practice of transferring Afghan prisoners from Iran to Afghanistan. In previous years, transfers included around 197 prisoners to Afghanistan.

Based on memorandum of transfer of prisoners from Iran to Afghanistan, the recipient country’s laws are enforceable.  Based on this standard; we do not have death penalty for narcotics crimes.  However, penalties anticipated in our laws, are not as severe as laws in Iran.    

Based on the approval of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, the decision is not to amend continued imprisonment for prisoners held in Iran, which is equivalent to 20 years of imprisonment in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Penal Code stipulates continued imprisonment is from 16 to 20 years.  

Amending the death penalty would occur. Long, medium, and short imprisonments would stay the same. Regarding newly arrived prisoners, we will practice this process. 

As it seems, not all prisoners transferred from Iran are residents of Herat province. Will there be an investigation of their cases in Herat province or in their respective provinces?

Answer:  Yes, a few prisoners are from Herat province. People who are not from Herat province are willing to transfer to their respective provinces. The prisoner, who is not from Herat and willing to spend his/her imprisonment in his /her respective province, will transfer to their provincial prison.

In some religious and national occasions, Office of the President issues amnesty and mitigation orders, are these people eligible to seek these sorts of orders?

Answer:  Inclusion in an amnesty and mitigation order is the next issue and each province will act on this order. Some crimes are not remissible; however, prisoners could seek mitigation order.

Mr. Ahmadi, at the end, if you have any message for your colleagues or central officials, please share with us.

Answer:  I would like to thank the delegation board for making the opportunity of freedom of action provided for prosecutors.  Better facilities in the possession of central and provincial offices, and prosecution offices are moving towards development. The AGO shall slowly be made a standard and accountable administration for people’s requirements.

My message to my colleagues is to serve people as much as they can with sincerity.  I am thankful to you and the Information and Public Relations Directorate for providing the opportunity for this interview.