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Afghan Supreme Court
ستره محكمه
Established January 4, 2004
Jurisdiction Afghanistan
Location Kabul
Authorized by Constitution of Afghanistan
Judge term length 10
Number of positions 9
Chief Justice
Currently Abdul Salam Azimi

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Stera Mahkama (Pashto: ستره محكمه) or the Afghan Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Afghanistan. It was created by the Constitution of Afghanistan, which was approved on January 4, 2004. Its creation was called for by the Bonn Agreement, which read in part:

The judicial power of Afghanistan shall be independent and shall be vested in a Supreme Court of Afghanistan, and such other courts as may be established by the Interim Administration.

Currently, the nine-member court is made up of the following justices:

  • Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi
  • Justice Bahauddin Baha
  • Justice Abdul-Rasheed Rashid
  • Justice Gholam Nabi Nawai
  • Justice Zamen Ali Behsudi
  • Justice Mohammad Qasem
  • Justice Mohammad Alim Nasimi
  • Justice Mohammad Omar Barakzai

The nine justices on the tribunal are appointed for 10-year terms by the president, with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the nation's legislature. The president selects one of the nine members to serve as Chief Justice. The Afghan Constitution allows for judges to be trained in either civil or Islamic law. Matters of law with no provision in the constitution or other standing laws shall be judged by the Hanafi jurisprudence. The judiciary shall apply the Shia school of law in cases dealing with personal matters of those who are of the Shia sect, where applicable.

The Court was previously dominated by conservative religious figures and the former Chief Justice, Faisal Ahmad Shinwari, in particular was described as "ultra conservative." Several of its rulings disappointed reform-minded Afghanis and people in the Western world. For instance:

  • the court, during the 2004 presidential election campaign, sought to ban a candidate who questioned whether polygamy was in keeping with the spirit of Islam;
  • they have called for an end to cable television service in the country, at least pending government regulation, due in part to the apparent influence of films from Bollywood, which were allegedly prurient [1];
  • the court upheld the death penalty for two journalists convicted of blasphemy for saying the Islam being practised in the country was reactionary [2];
  • they banned women from singing on television [3] [4]; and
  • they ruled that a girl, given as a bride when 9 years old and now 13, could not get a divorce from her abusive husband, notwithstanding a law that makes it illegal for girls under 16 to marry [5].
  • they ruled that the punishment for homosexuality is death, even through the penal code of 1976 stipulates long prison sentence for adultery and sodomy [6].

In 2006, President Hamid Karzai appointed several new, more moderate members to the court. However, he also chose to renominate Faisal Ahmad Shinwari as Chief Justice. Despite controversy surrounding the validity of Shinwari's legal credentials, his nomination was allowed to continue, but ultimately failed when voted on in parliament. Karzai then chose his legal council, Abdul Salam Azimi, to succeed Shinwari. Azimi's nomination passed, and the new court was sworn in on August 5, 2006.

The current Afghan Chief Justice Azimi is considered a moderate by national standards.

See also



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