Global conference on Afghanistan opens in Rome

ROME (AFP) – A two-day global meet on the state of law in war-battered Afghanistan opened in Rome Monday and due to be addressed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and NATO head Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

More than 20 delegations attended the UN-sponsored talks, including representatives from the World Bank, the European Union, the United States, Italy and Afghanistan.

The talks began at 1300 GMT at the building housing the Italian foreign ministry. Karzai was due later Monday to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Karzai, Ban and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema were due to address the conference on Tuesday.

Afghanistan’s judicial system is in tatters after almost three decades of war and conflict.

Nearly six years after the fall of the extremist Taliban government, it is corrupt, overburdened and under-resourced, and internationally backed efforts to reform the sector have dragged.

“The conference aims at reaffirming commitments of the Afghan government and the international community in accelerating the judicial reform process and the rule of law, which are basic pillars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” an Afghan statement said.

Italian undersecretary for foreign affairs Gianni Vernetti told the ANSA news agency that Rome would contribute 10 million euros (13.6 million dollars) to revamp the country’s judiciary.

“One of the aims of the conference is to reaffirm the international community’s long-term commitment to rebuild and develop the country. A commitment which could also continue in a military form,” he said.

“Without justice and the rule of law, it is difficult to guarantee security, stability, economic development and human rights. An efficient judiciary is a fundamental ingredient for development.”

Karzai was handpicked by the West to lead the country after the ouster of the Taliban in a US-led crackdown in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

The Indian-educated ethnic Pashtun had pledged to usher in a radically reformist path but his detractors accuse him of failing to rein in drug production, war, lawlessness and corruption.

London-based rights group Amnesty International this year rapped all sides in Afghanistan’s growing conflict, including international forces, of having committed “serious breaches” of humanitarian law.

The rising Taliban-linked unrest had claimed the lives of about 1,000 civilians over the year with the government and its foreign partners unable to bring security or rule of law, the London-based rights watchdog said in May.

The violence forced thousands to flee their homes as “pervasive poverty, food shortages and a lack of safe drinking water exacerbated by drought added to the suffering of people and internal displacement.”

A key focus of Amnesty’s assessment was the conflict linked to the insurgency by the extremist Taliban movement toppled from government in 2001 and supported by the Al-Qaeda network.

The militants breached international humanitarian law with “indiscriminate and disproportionate acts of violence; by killing those not involved in combat; and by ill-treating and torturing those over whom they had effective control.”

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