The Afghan cabinet on Monday approved a bill that would allow high-ranking government officials to stand trial on charges of corruption. Under the bill the Afghan judiciary would be empowered [Xinhua report] to establish special tribunals which would hear the cases of high-ranking government officials accused of corruption. Under current Afghan law, government ministers are immune from prosecution in the traditional court system. The cabinet's approval comes one week before the Afghan government is expected to ask for additional funds from the international community in order to help in the country's rebuilding efforts. The approval of the funds may be contingent on the government's ability to reduce corruption, which is reportedly extensive. Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) [advocacy website] reports [text, PDF] that Afghans paid USD $1 billion in bribes in 2009, and that corruption threatens the country's legitimacy [press release]. Transparency International (TI) [advocacy website], in its 2009 Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) [text; JURIST report], ranked Afghanistan one of the world's most corrupt countries. The bill must now be approved [AFP report] by the Afghan Parliament [official website] or passed by presidential decree.
In March, US President Barack Obama [official website], during a surprise visit to the country, urged the Afghan government to reduce corruption [JURIST report] and institute an effective judicial system. Obama called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; JURIST news archive] to take steps to promote good governance [CBS/AP report], end cronyism, and curtail the opium trade [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Last November, Karzai pledged to fight corruption [JURIST report] in his government during his inaugural address [text, PDF]. In his speech Karzai announced that he would organize a conference to research the sources of the corruption and bribery and find ways to combat it.