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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Law Schools

map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Afghan constitutions of 1923 and 1931 both affirmed the absolute power and position of the Afghan king. Only in 1964 did a new constitution provide for a constitutional Afghan monarchy based on the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial authorities.

The monarchy and the then-King, Mohammed Zahir Shah, were overthrown by a military coup in 1973. The constitution of 1964 was abolished, and the Republic of Afghanistan was officially created. The Afghan Grand National Assembly (Loya Jirga) adopted a new constitution in February 1977, but that was abrogated in 1978 when another coup established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, governed by the Afghan Revolutionary Council. Political turmoil continued, marked by a third coup in September 1979, a massive invasion of Soviet troops, and the installation of a pro-Soviet government in December 1979. A new constitution promulgated in 1987 changed the name of the country back to the Republic of Afghanistan and reaffirmed its nonaligned status, strengthened the post of president, and permitted other parties to participate in government. Nationalist Islamic Mujahideen rebels nonetheless refused to recognize the Soviet-backed regime, eventually forcing the withdrawl of Soviet forces in 1989 and the adoption of an amended multiparty Islamic-oriented Constitution in 1990.

The socialist government of Afghanistan was ultimately overthrown by the Mujahideen in 1992; the Mujahideen subsequently proclaimed an Islamic State and called elections in which Professor Burhannudin Rabbani was elected President.

On 27 September 1996, President Rabbini and the other ruling members of the Afghan Government were displaced by members of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban ("students of Islam") movement. The Taliban eventually took control of 90% of the country, leaving only a small northern enclave in possession of opposition "Northern Alliance" forces.

On October 7, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), a U.S.-led coalition, began a military action aimed at toppling the Taliban regime and eliminating the al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan. U.S. forces worked in concert with anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance as well as others in southern Afghanistan. By mid-November the Taliban had been removed from power and had retreated from Kabul to southwestern Afghanistan. Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaida leader Usama bin Ladin remained fugitives at year's end, and U.S. military operations continued in an effort to capture and detain remaining Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. On December 5, a U.N.-sponsored Afghan peace conference in Bonn, Germany approved a broad agreement for the establishment of a 6-month interim authority (Afghan Interim Administration) to govern the country. The AIA Chairman, Hamid Karzai, and his cabinet took office December 22, 2001.

The Bonn Agreement called for the convening of a Constitutional Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) within eighteen months in order to adopt a new constitution for Afghanistan. In the meantime the following legal framework would apply:

i) The Constitution of 1964, a/ to the extent that its provisions are not inconsistent with those contained in this agreement, and b/ with the exception of those provisions relating to the monarchy and to the executive and legislative bodies provided in the Constitution; and
ii) existing laws and regulations, to the extent that they are not inconsistent with this agreement or with international legal obligations to which Afghanistan is a party, or with those applicable provisions contained in the Constitution of 1964, provided that the Interim Authority shall have the power to repeal or amend those laws and regulations.

Sources: U.S. State Department; CIA World Factbook; wire service reports

Courts & Judgments

With no functioning nationwide judicial system, many municipal and provincial authorities in Afghanistan rely on some interpretation of Islamic law and traditional tribal codes of justice. The Bonn Agreement of December 2001 called for the establishment of a Judicial Commission to rebuild the domestic justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law, and Afghan legal traditions. However, by year's end, the Commission members had not been announced and there was no independent judiciary.

On January 8, 2002, it was reported that the Afghan Interim Authority had appointed the influential Pashtun Islamic scholar Fazal Hadi Shinwari, the former administrator of a seminary in Pakistan, as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. Chief Justice Shinwari has been quoted in press reports as saying that justice in post-Taliban Afghanistan will continue to be dispensed according to Islamic law.

Source: U.S. Department of State; wire service reports

Human Rights

Law Schools

There are currently no functioning law schools in Afghanistan; a faculty of law was established at Kabul University in 1938, but the university - closed at one point under the Taliban regime - is currently in disarray and the status of the law program is unclear.

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