Briefing by the R.T Hon Margherita Boniver, State Secretrary for Foreign Affairs Brussels, 16 June 2004 PDF Stampa E-mail
Italy’s involvement in Afghanistan dates back a long time, ever since the former King Zahir Shah, who chose Rome for his years in exile, had been trying to chart a better future for Afghanistan with the assistance of his “inner circle” and many other followers who paid frequent visits to Rome in that period (among them, Hamid Karzai).

This enabled Italy to monitor very closely the developments during the final period of Taliban rule, and to take the initiative of founding the Geneva Group, or the Group of Four (Italy, Germany, the United States and Iran) – which was instrumental in drawing up a possible post-Taliban scenario.The Geneva Group was one of the main sponsors of that traditional form of consultation, the “Loya Jirga”, which was first convened in Rome in November 1999. That was an important symbolic act which gave the Afghan people the opportunity to recover its voice after so many years of silence. The Loya Jirga, which was gradually endorsed by the international community, was formally inaugurated for the first time with the Emergency Loya Jirga of June 2002: it was just before that event  that  King Zahir Shah, after almost thirty years of exile in Italy, returned to his Country accompanied by President Karzai and myself.

Our commitment to the future of Afghanistan has grown constantly. After September 11th, we participated in the military effort of the Coalition against the Talibans and other terrorist groups (Operation Enduring Freedom). We then participated as observers in the first Petersberg Conference which produced the Bonn Agreement.  Our commitment was reconfirmed at the Tokyo Conference of January 2002 and at the recent Berlin Conference, where Italy pledged 140 million euros for 2004-2006. Almost the same amount of money was disbursed in the previous three-year period and 650 million euros has been spent on the military mission. Therefore, our total financial commitment to date amounts to more than one billion US dollars.Italian activities in Afghanistan involved several dimensions, ranging from our military participation in Operation Enduring Freedom (with a contingent of more than 1,000 soldiers in Task Force Nibbio) and currently in the ISAF mission, to assistance in development aid; from supporting the electoral process, to the reform of the judiciary.

Italy is still committed to taking the lead of a PRT and we are examining this possibility in detail with a constructive spirit.  A final decision has not been taken yet – further efforts are needed in connection with the Forward Support Base – but I am confident that by the Istanbul Summit, Italy will be in a position to confirm its intention.As far as the judiciary is concerned, Italy agreed to act as lead nation and subsequently organised the Conference in Rome, in December 2002, which set the goals for our future responsibility in this field. Our plan of action was developed with the belief that both the ownership and the leadership of the process belong to the Afghan authorities.

At the same time, the magnitude of the needs demanded a strong and generous commitment by the international community, with a key role played by the Afghan Judicial Commission on the one hand, and by Italy as lead country on the other.Our efforts are bound by the principle that the establishment of an efficient and fair judicial system is essential for political and social stability, economic development, and the final democratisation of the country. In other words, a properly functioning judiciary is not the outcome of peace and development, but their precondition.President Di Gennaro will shortly be telling you more about the work done in 2003 and 2004. I shall only mention a few results achieved in this field:

  • - the Interim Criminal Procedure Code has been approved;
  • - a Juvenile Code has been completed;
  • - penitentiary laws are under review;
  • - a complete index of existing laws  has been prepared;
  • - training courses are being held for around 700 judges and prosecutors,
  • - to bring their activities up to international standards;
  • - the rehabilitation of the Kabul Court of Appeal is completed.

What then are our priorities for the future ?

In purely financial terms, according to our Berlin pledge for 2004, we plan to invest a further 12 million euros.  We realise that merely increasing our funding will not be enough to deal with the challenges that lie ahead of us. We intend to cooperate more closely with  the major international players involved in Afghanistan. We will reinforce our team in Kabul so that it can operate in co-ordination with local NGOs and International Organisations working in the same field. We will cooperate closely with Germany and the UK, to generate useful synergies between the sectors of justice, police, and counter-narcotics.

The Italian Justice Office in Kabul will continue to coordinate its activities in three main directions:

  • - legal reform, where the Codes  already completed will have to be implemented and others revised, particularly the civil-commercial code;
  • - creating a national training centre in Kabul for the training of judges, prosecutors and lawyers,and free defence counsels to give broader access  to justice;
  • - the rehabilitation of the judicial infrastructure (including prisons), to be eventually extended to the provinces.
None of this will be easy. It will require greater efforts, increased funding, and more human resources – to pursue increased and more diversified goals. A greater awareness of the importance of the rule of law is needed in Afghanistan as well as real burden-sharing. Finally, the success of this endeavour requires that the Central Government extend its authority over the whole of Afghanistan, and that it put an end to the dominance of the warlords over every aspect of public life, including justice.

I shall now leave the floor to President Di Gennaro for a more technical description of the work performed by our justice reform team in Kabul. He deserves the gratitude of us all for his dedication, for having placed his immense experience and knowledge in the field of justice at the disposal of the Afghan government and of the international community.