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ISAF improves Afghanistan's judicial system

November 28, 2012

By Sgt. 1st Class Theresa Gualdarama

TARIN KOWT, Afghanistan (Nov. 27, 2012) -- Coalition forces are working with Afghan forensic evidence collection teams to ensure criminal evidence stands up in court.

One sign of the priority both parties place on the proper collection of evidence occurred when Afghan policemen and Afghan Criminal Investigation Division staff received evidence collection training from coalition force instructors at the Police Training Center at Multi National Base Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, Nov. 17 to 21.

The five-day, evidence-based police operations course promises to strengthen the integrity of Afghanistan's criminal justice system. Complete with a simulated murder scene, the final practical application was orchestrated by several agencies to test the newly-learned skills of the Afghan Criminal Investigation Division and Afghan police.

Organizations that teamed to host the course included: law enforcement professionals, embedded police mentor representatives, Security Force Advisory Team 12, Australian Federal Police officials, the Australian Defence Force Weapons Intelligence Team's forensic lab staff, a legal team and military police.

"This coordinated joint training effort was a success and achieved positive results due to the class material, advanced-class participants and instructors," said Davy Aguilera, a law enforcement professional.

Thirteen Afghan criminal investigative detectives, prosecutors, judges and police officials from Uruzgan province attended the training and tested their skills during the practical exercise.

According to Aguilera, the Afghan students hold positions within the Afghanistan Provincial Police Headquarters and judicial system and instructors had to re-adjust lesson plans to test the students' advanced knowledge.

"The students did an exceptional job of solving the robbery-homicide case and demonstrated a good use of the basic evidence collection principles and techniques," Aguilera said.

Coalition forces are helping strengthen Afghanistan's criminal justice system with forensic evidence collection training because criminal cases are being lost in court due to lack of evidence, said Charles Matthews, a law enforcement professional.

"They need to show me that they are capable of completing all aspects of this job," Matthews said. "They've learned how to track a blood trail, take fingerprints and blood trace evidence off of a vehicle as well as proper evidence processing and documenting."

John Mohammad, one of the students, said he learned something new every day.

"They've really done a lot for us and now we have to take charge," said John Mohammad, an Afghan Uruzgan prosecutor. "These methods and modern equipment will definitely help us."

International Security Assistance Forces continue to work closely with their Afghan partners during the security transition period to ensure the future stability of Afghanistan, including its judicial system.

"Improved evidence gathering will influence things by providing the initial police officers and investigators with a better method and process to get the job done on the scene," said Australian Sgt. Nathan Thompson, an AFP officer. "It was great getting the prosecutors and police working together."

Evidence from crime scenes, including improvised explosive devices, will allow investigators to identify and prosecute criminal suspects.

"This training will hopefully enable their investigators to correctly collect the evidence, present it to a lab and then present that to a court," said Sgt. Ben Gilbey, an Australian defence force investigator with the weapons intelligence team.

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