Afghanistan: Counter Narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force becomes operational

Kabul, 28 July 2005: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announces the official start of activities of the counter narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF). The Task Force has been created to fast-track major drug cases within Afghanistan and has already dealt with 69 drug cases during a pilot phase earlier this year. The Ministry of Counter Narcotics is the main Governmental coordinating body for the program, and is implementing activities in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court and Office of the Attorney General.

The Task Force has been established in January 2005 by the Government of Afghanistan, with the support from UNODC and donor countries including United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, with the aim to bring offenders of drug related crime quickly to justice. The United States is providing additional operational support. The Task Force is composed of key investigators, prosecutors and judges. It is based in Kabul but is operative also in the provinces. The purpose is to strengthen the institutional capacity to arrest, investigate, try and detain criminal offenders suspected and convicted of drug related crimes.

Over the last few months, training courses have been conducted, offices have been established and equipment and materials have been provided. So far, the Task Force consists of 84 members including 36 investigators, 33 prosecutors and 15 judges. Another 60 members will join the Task Force over the next few months after having received the relevant training by the Italian non-governmental organization ISISC. This will bring the total number of Task Force members to 144 by the end of October 2005.

The program also provides for continuous support and guidance to the Task Force members through a mentorship mechanism, which facilitates advisory services.

In a pilot phase carried out earlier this year, following the training of a first group of 20 judicial professionals, 69 cases have already been investigated, 62 have been prosecuted and 22 cases have been decided by the court.

The establishment of the Task Force falls within the framework of strengthening the criminal justice system as well as the establishment of secure court and prison facilities in Afghanistan. In this connection, two blocks of Pol-e-Charki prison are being renovated by UNODC to deal with major drug trafficking criminals. The high-secure blocks are expected to be functional by mid-2006. The renovation will ensure the compliance to the international standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. Thus, apart from prison cell renovation, the rehabilitation will also include the construction of health clinics, libraries, visiting areas, walking areas, gyms, religious areas and kitchens. This will help to restore the basic human needs of prisoners. The project is implemented by UNODC, in support from Italian and Afghan experts.