Between April 1 and April 10, 2006, a team consisting of Dr. Thomas Barfield, Omar Sharifi and Abdul Ahrar Ramizpoor visited three provinces in northern Afghanistan (Balkh, Kunduz and Takhar) to examine the current state of the Afghan legal system, particularly the relationship between the formal and informal systems.
The formal court system functions in most rural areas, although in mountainous regions of Takhar access was reported to be difficult. About 80% of their caseload is civil, with the bulk of these cases focusing on disputes over inheritance, property and family law (mostly marriage and divorce). About 20% of the cases are criminal in nature but prosecutors noted a sharp decline in serious criminal offenses over the past four years.
The courts and judges are widely disliked and avoided by most residents as a way to resolve disputes. People complain that the courts are too slow, expensive, and corrupt. Judges appointed by the Kabul government are often holdovers from the Taliban era whose knowledge of the law (governmental or sharia) is deficient and who are widely reputed to demand bribes.
The informal system is much more popular because it is cheaper, quicker and more respected than the formal system for civil cases, in part because decisions there reflect a greater respect for equity as opposed to legal nuance. Representatives who decide such cases include village elders and mullahs who are accepted by both sides in a dispute to form a shura, the larger the problem the bigger the group chosen. Compared with thirty years ago, there is a much higher level of trust and closer connections between village elders and the local government