UN-backed meeting on justice in Afghanistan opens in Rome


Tehran : A two-day meeting co-chaired by the United Nations and the Afghan and Italian governments opened Monday in Rome focusing on strengthening the rule of law and justice in the country.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in Rome today, paid a surprise visit on Friday to Afghanistan, where he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the head of the International Security Assistance Force, and members of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

"The purpose of my visit to Afghanistan was to have first-hand information, as well as discussions with Afghanistan's leaders in Kabul, before I attend this international conference on justice and rule of law in Afghanistan in Rome," Ban said at a press conference Tuesday in Geneva, where he opened the 2007 substantive session of the UN Economic and Social Council.

One of the key goals of the conference is to ensure international and Afghan support at the highest levels for the consolidation of the rule of law and for improving the justice and law enforcement institutions in a post-conflict Afghanistan, according to UNAMA.

Key documents being presented deal with government priorities in the justice sector, a plan for donors and an outline of Justice Program for Afghanistan, according to a UN spokesperson in New York.

According to a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) here on Tuesday, Ban is expected to meet again with President Karzai in the course of the conference and to continue the discussion they began on Friday, which dealt with continuing violence in the country and especially civilian casualties.

The secretary-general said that he had made a "strong request" to the country's leaders, as well as military commanders, to avoid civilian casualties in the course of their military operations.

Another prominent issue between the two leaders was poppy cultivation, which Ban referred to as "a serious problem that the Afghanistan government lacks the ability to control".

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported last week that opium production remains an enormous problem in Afghanistan, where more than 90 per cent of the world's supply is cultivated and the number of local addicts is on the rise.

The UN has been in close coordination with Western countries to provide necessary alternative sources of income for poppy farmers, Ban stated. "Even though the progress has not been very satisfactory, this is an ongoing effort by the United Nations, led by [UNODC] and also in cooperation with NATO and western countries."