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Fair justice system vital to Afghanistan's success: Rice

New York, December 14, 2007 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday said establishing a fair, democratic and transparent justice system in Afghanistan was essential to the countrys long-term success.

At a function in Washington, Rice formally launched the public-private partnership for justice reforms in Afghanistan which is aimed to strengthen the fragile judicial system. Justice reform in Afghanistan is critical to the country's future success, she reiterated.

Giving reasons for the launch of the public-private partnership, Rice said: One concern for the justice system is the deficiency of basic equipment, such as office supplies, vehicles and the limited availability of defence attorneys and private practitioners.

Another challenge, she added, is to expand public awareness of legal rights, especially lacking in rural areas. Increasing the number of women judges was also a key priority, she continued, pointing out that Afghanistan currently had over 1,500 judges nationwide, yet only 60 of them were women.

It is imperative that Afghanistan develop a well-trained, educated and demographically-representative cadre of judges to serve in courts across the country, stressed the secretary, explaining it was for these reasons that the US government was asking American law firms and schools to help the Afghan judicial system in a variety of ways.

Earlier, she commended efforts of visiting Afghan Attorney General Dr. Abdul Jabbar Sabit, who was present at the launch of the initiative. Under the leadership of Sabit, the attorney-general's office had prosecuted hundreds of cases of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of authority, she said.