Law Students Bring Legal Education to Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) is finishing up another successful and challenging academic year in which we continued to provide the students and faculty of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) with high-quality legal textbooks, as well as assistance with administration and curriculum development. In the fall we published the first edition of the Afghan Law of Obligations, a body of law that encompasses contract and tort law in Afghanistan. We also completed translations of the Civil and Criminal Codes of Afghanistan, which proved not only helpful to law students and faculty but also to practitioners in the field, NGOs, and other members of civil society. Our first edition of the Afghan Property Law textbook is in its final stages of editing, and we are shooting for publication in the early summer.  Our Afghan Legal Ethics textbook should be forthcoming soon after. We were also delighted to learn in December that the Library of Congress will be stocking our textbooks and translations. Lastly and most importantly, we are pleased to announce that in May 2015 the first group of students graduated from the law program at AUAF with a major in law. Overall, this has been one of the most productive years since ALEP’s inception in 2007, and we hope to keep this momentum going into the next academic year. But along with our successes, we have met with many challenges. Foremost among them was the inability to travel to Afghanistan. In past years, ALEP team members would travel to Kabul during 2L year to meet our clients at AUAF and observe classes. But due to the security situation, ALEP team members have been unable to travel to Kabul since September 2013. These face-to-face meetings have always been critical to establishing a rapport with our clients and helping us understand the situation on the ground so that we may better serve the students and faculty at AUAF. To overcome this challenge, ALEP held a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. In January, 11 ALEP team members, along with two faculty members from Stanford, met with three members of the AUAF law faculty and one law student. Over the course of three intense days, we worked to develop a rapport, solve problems, and determine how ALEP could best serve the students and faculty at AUAF. Our Afghan colleagues conveyed how truly important our work is to the success of the law program at AUAF. The conference was a productive and rewarding experience for all involved. We left the conference with a concrete plan moving forward and a renewed dedication to our work. This conference drove home to us how truly important such face-to-face meetings are. And we plan to organize other such events in the future should the security situation continue to preclude travel to Afghanistan.

The Afghan student joining us at the conference, Ali Shah, is one of the law students graduating from AUAF in May.  He, along with several others, have earned admittance and scholarships to LLM programs at top law schools in the United States. In an email sent after his graduation, he expressed gratitude for all of ALEP’s hard work, writing graciously, “We, graduated students, owe our degree to ALEP students.” Ali Shah went on to write in his characteristically eloquent style, “The work of the ALEP program will remain forever in Afghanistan, since it is a matter of books, and books never die.” Such kind words make the hard work of the ALEP team members all worth it. They keep us motivated to continue to support AUAF as we move into a new year.  SL

Tres Thompson, JD ’15, is a former student director of ALEP. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served in the Navy for seven years, first as a submarine officer onboard the USS Norfolk (SSN-714) and later as a submarine tactics instructor. Following graduation, Tres will deploy with the Navy to the Horn of Africa for one year. Following his deployment he will be clerking for Judge Patricia Ann Millet on the D.C. Circuit.