Afghanistan’s justice system is currently at a crucial and troubled stage of development that will determine its effectiveness. This article focuses on the phenomenon of corruption inside judicial institutions. By integrating the analysis of narratives of corruption with the observation of judicial practice and a critical approach to the reconstruction process, I argue that in Afghanistan, the phenomenon of corruption can be understood in terms of its “double institutionalisation”, whereby mechanisms of exchange and of compensation, both already affirmed at the level of social practice, find a possibility of reaffirmation (of re-institutionalisation) in the legal system itself. The creation of an economic system that depends on international aid, the consolidation of a state apparatus over-determined by warlordism and foreign influences, and the process of legal modernisation itself all play an important role in the re-institutionalisation and radicalisation of corruption. By taking into consideration this scenario, I adopt an ethnographic perspective to explore some of the effects of corruption on the work of judges and on the access to justice itself.

Antonio De Lauri

Research Professor, Coordinator; Humanitarianism and Borders