Assistant U.S. Attorney takes command of coalition to support Afghan courts

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March 28, 2014 | 3:29 pm

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Reinert left Cedar Rapids this week to take over the command of a coalition which helps reinforce the Afghan criminal justice system and promote the legitimacy of its government.

“Having a court system work – ties people to the government,” said Reinert, who is a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army Reserve. “The coalition is set up to help the Afghan judicial system work more efficiently. It’s not to turn their system into an American system. We support their system and government.”

The Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan is a joint coalition comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard members along with military personnel from Afghanistan, Poland, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands. The field force partners with civil military law teams to build the court system’s capacity, increase access to dispute resolution, fight corruption, and promote the Afghan government.

The NATO Rule of Law Support Mission, which Reinert will also lead, provides liaison and security to Afghan and international civilian technical personnel to support the building of the judicial system.

Reinert said a strong government and judicial system are important because when the Taliban dominated the area they set up their own courts, many in the remote regions, where security is a factor and more difficult for judicial officials to access. Many of the Afghan people didn’t have any recourse for resolutions, except in those courts.

“We’re just there to support the judges and lawyers in their roles,” Reinert said. “About five or six years ago the field of force started sending over judges and lawyers as mentors. They would help judges learn how to manage the dockets so more cases are resolved faster. Many of the judges have to commute to different courts and in different regions. It’s not like here where a judge may live in Cedar Rapids and just has to go to the Linn County Courthouse. Many of those areas have rough terrain.”

The field force coalition, set up in 2001, are part of the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan government, now that the Taliban have been removed from power, Reinert said.

“Having law abiding communities will help stabilize the country and provide a normal existence, which will also lead to economic development – another component of the field of force (missions),” Reinert said. “If the country is stable and the government is strong, others will want to come in and invest in the country.”

Achievements of the rule of law field force missions include:

  • A national security Justice Center in Parwan province, which now has 2 Afghan judicial trial panels, hearing hundreds of trials since 2010
  • Building Afghan forensic evidence capabilities, now has 2 regional labs
  • Deployment by the Afghan government of dozens of justice officials to districts without any in the past
  • Afghan public trials at the district level, which promotes transparency and public accountability of defendants, as well as judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Reinert said there are also more cases are going through the courts, there are more courthouses open and an increase in court personnel, and there have been 200 judges sworn in and a significant number of those are women, which hasn't happened in the past.

Reinert will serve as command for a year. He said being away from his family is tough but he’s looking forward to the opportunity and is fortunate to have an office that supports his leave.

Interim U.S. Attorney Sean Berry said Reinert will be missed in the office because he’s such an experienced attorney but fully supports his important mission in Afghanistan. Reinert serves as the chief prosecutor for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program.

Reinert was promoted to Brigadier General in 2010. His previous assignment with the U.S. Army Reserve was as Commanding General for the Legal Command in Gaithersburg, Md. The Legal Command is a nationwide command comprised of about 1,800 soldiers assigned to 28 subordinate units in 43 states. Reinert also has served as a military judge and presided over 98 trials with cases from Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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