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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — In November 2001, the United States, Great Britain and about 15,000 Northern Alliance fighters liberated Afghanistan from Taliban rule.

Since then, the new Afghanistan government has had the task of rebuilding country infrastructure while earning the confidence of the Afghan people. To that end, it was critical that Afghan authorities establish the rule of law.

It’s still a work in progress.

Last week, a delegation of seven Afghan National Army judges went to Hawaii to study U.S. civilian and military criminal court proceedings as part of the 19th Annual Defense Law Conference in Pearl Harbor.

Capt. Gregory Belanger, the commanding officer of Naval Legal Service Office Pacific in Yokosuka, and the other legal officers spent several hours with the delegation discussing the role of the American defense counsel in military justice.

Topics discussed included attorney-client conflicts, the U.S. view on jury selection, courtroom procedures and the introduction of evidence.

Afghan Major Gen. (sel) Shir Mohammad Zazai, the highest-ranking attorney in the ANA, is reported as underscoring the importance of having the public’s trust and establishing the “rule of law” in Afghanistan.

Belanger said Afghan media is playing a key role in helping “engender confidence” in the legal system by allowing the public to see the process at work.

“In both the U.S. Federal and military court systems we do not permit cameras into the courts,” Belanger explained. “But in Afghanistan they are permitted to show the people that the system works” and provide “transparency.”

Belanger said, speaking for himself and his fellow legal officers: “We were all very impressed by the sophistication of the Afghan legal system” after only five years of existence.


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