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Afghan Anti-Corruption Efforts 'Slowed' Due To Elections, COVID-19

Both standing President Ashraf Ghani, left, and his contender, Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory in last September's presidential election.

Anti-corruption measures taken by the Afghan government in late 2019 and early 2020 have made slow progress due to the crisis over the last election and the COVID-19 pandemic, a newly published report by the local United Nations mission showed on June 18.

The UN's Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) further said that an anti-corruption strategy in Afghanistan expired in 2019 without a successor, and the government failed to create a new one as it was busy containing the political and health crisis.

Analyst Jelena Bjelica from the Kabul-based think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network sees a shift in the political priorities as a reason for the slowdown. "Obviously, there is a focus on the peace talks by both the international community and government. And it just seems that anti-corruption is totally not [the focus]," Bjelica told dpa.

In Afghanistan, particularly serious cases of corruption are handled by the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre (ACJC), which began its work in 2016. The report notes dozens of open arrest warrants, from a list of 255 in total, for high-ranking civilian and military officials charged with corruption for years, but they could not be fully executed.

"It seems that there is no cooperation between the police, law enforcement, and prosecution," Bjelica said.

The Afghan Supreme Court imposed disciplinary action on 91 judges in 2019, and written warnings were issued to 43 others. The Attorney General's Office has also prosecuted 17 of its employees for corruption offenses and issued warnings to 84 others.

Afghans still have a problem with corruption in the judiciary, as shown by surveys taken in 2019, where only about half of the respondents say they had never experienced any corruption. Trust in the judiciary that is not registered with the government is higher, with 74 percent of people finding traditional councils more effective at bringing justice.

UNAMA said the anti-corruption law enacted by a presidential decree in 2018, and amended in 2019, had little impact on bringing reforms to the overall anti-corruption reforms.

The security situation remained as one of the main challenges for the judicial sector to fully implement the law in the country. In 2019, the report said, 13 judges and 19 prosecutors were killed in deliberate attacks across the country.

Afghan anti-corruption efforts have more hard days to come, as the financial commitments are expected to be reviewed in 2020: UNAMA said for Afghanistan this means that it has to do more with few resources in the future.

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