A man's fight against crime
Kabul, July 2012. Many in Afghanistan are scared not necessarily of the insurgents or suicide bombings – but of kidnap for ransom. “Kabul police have arrested four men in association with the ransom-seeking kidnap of a nine-year-old boy 12 days ago, which ended in his murder. The kidnappers had taken the boy while he was on his way home from school about 12 days ago, and demanded his family pay 100,000 US Dollars.” This is just one out of many crime stories making the headlines in Afghan media. The Afghan National Police is adapting to the threat: more and more kidnap gang members and leaders are arrested – success stories that Lieutenant General Jamil Junbish, Chief of Anti-Crime at the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI), is quite proud to share.
General Junbish remains optimistic although serious crime is plaguing the country. Murder, robbery, armed assault, drug-related and sexual offences and violence against women are rampant in Afghanistan. To tackle crime from the bottom is a hard and dangerous line of work. But is Afghanistan really so different? Junbish likes to put the dire statistics into international perspective: “Crime is a big challenge in any society, there is no single country without crime.” And he is doing his very best to stop the criminals.
Under his command, 5.000 anti-crime specialists are deployed in different MoI and police departments in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan. Junbish (pictured right) knows that some of his brave men and women and their families are personally being threatened by criminals. Some even have bodyguards for protection. It does not seem to be a dream job, but as Junbish says: “It is all about commitment.” Protecting the Afghan people puts the police on the line. General Junbish recalls a sad story: “I am very proud of one of my team members who noticed a suicide bomber and dragged him out immediately so he could not detonate his explosives in a crowded area. Instead, he blew himself up in an area far from the people. The suicide bomber died - as well as the brave police officer.”
This certainly requires quite some commitment. And the work is never done. A staggering total of 11.903 serious crimes were officially reported in 2011, in a country of 30 million. As this were not enough, Major General Saeed Abdul Ghafar Saeedzada, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) feels that this figure is clearly underreported. Many citizens do not report crimes to the police, he says, but prefer to resort to other justice providers such as village elders, customary and traditional law procedure. In remote districts of Afghanistan, some people take their cases to the Taliban for justice or dispute settlement. This might be effective, but does this country not deserve an independent judiciary and constitutional law enforcement?
Ironically, the recorded crime rate is expected to rise due to a new powerful tool introduced to the Afghan National Police in early 2012: a comprehensive crime database that has been created with the support of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) and EUPOL Afghanistan. The computer-based National Information Management System (NIMS) will gather and store all reports of criminal activity, arrests, investigations convictions from police stations and jails across the country. 31 types of crimes are recorded. The statistics will be used to control and analyse crime, guide policies and to evaluate proposed increases in force levels.
The overall benefits of this new system are undeniable. On a practical level, though, there are still major obstacles to tackle. To process reliable data, there is still an urgent need for computer training, conducted also by EUPOL Afghanistan. And to expand the system to the provincial police headquarters poses even more challenges, says Timo Korhonen, EUPOL CID Mentor: “The lack of electricity and communication means are huge challenges to overcome in the future.”
The latest data from the new system also revealed a new trend. According to Major General Saeed Abdul Ghafar Saeedzada, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), many new crimes registered in his department were cases related to violence against women. “In the past women wouldn’t dare to go to the police. It is our achievement that Afghan women now report domestic violence.” The police claims to investigate every single case.
To bring criminals to justice, the police has to produce evidence which holds up in court. There, Lt General Junbish can count on the support of the international community. DNA and biometric systems are already in place, and NTM-A provided an Academy and laboratories to develop and sustain Afghan capability to process forensic evidence in accordance with accepted scientific standards.
Among others FBI, Interpol and 18 anti-crime mentors and advisors of EUPOL Afghanistan are supporting Junbish’s effort to equip the detectives with the proper skill- and mindset to nail down criminals with strong evidence. “We assist in mentoring, providing training at the Police Staff College in Kabul, and also in the regions for instance with surveillance courses,” says EUPOL Deputy Head of Anti-Crime, Jacobus de Vries. Also EUPOL’s training component has a stake in providing assistance: at the Police Staff College, hundreds of senior detectives underwent leadership courses, and at the Central Training Center a variety of trainings such as crime scene management, evidence gathering and investigative interviewing were provided. The EUPOL Crime Management College at the CTC opened on June 28 marked a milestone in delivering CID training to the Afghan police.
Lt. General Junbish also acknowledges, though, another lack: “We need to work closer with the prosecutors. This is absolutely vital.” To him this is just a matter of awareness and training. Many of his staff are attending EUPOL’s Cooperation between Police and Prosecutor (CoPP) classes. For Junbish, training is paramount: “Crime is a challenge, and education is like a light in a dark house.” Every single kidnapper, thief or murderer arrested and brought to justice gives him satisfaction. He is well aware that the threat of being kidnapped has scared the business community and led to an exodus of businessmen and investment capital. However, Junbish is determined not to give up: “We are going to take action against those who want to destabilise our country.”