UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
AFGHANISTAN: Grave concern over impunity plans for war lords
KABUL , 4 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations and a leading human rights group in Afghanistan have expressed concern over a draft law that seeks to grant impunity to Afghans accused of committing war crimes during 25 years of conflict in the country.
On 31 January, the 249-seat lower house (Wolesi Jirga) of Afghanistan’s National Assembly approved and voted in favour of a draft law granting impunity to all those who committed war crimes during the Soviet occupation, from 1979 to 1989; the civil war that followed until 1996; and during the Taliban rule until late 2001. Some members of the lower house said that the motion would boost reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The bill also calls on opposition groups such as Hezb-e-Islami of Gul Buddin Hekmatyar and the Taliban, who are waging a deadly insurgency against the government, to join the peace process.
The draft bill still needs to be endorsed by the 102-member upper house (Meshrano Jirga) of parliament and then signed by President Hamid Karzai before it is enforced as law.
"In order to bring reconciliation among various strata in the society, all those political and belligerent sides who were involved one way or the other during the two and half decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially," the motion passed by the lower house says.
Some analysts say the bill was passed by the lower house of parliament because warlords and ex-communist officials are the majority in it.
Rights groups say, if accepted, it will excuse war criminals involved in nearly 30 years of conflict which have cost the lives of more than 1 million Afghans and forced millions of others to leave the country.
“Only victims and the people of Afghanistan, who suffered decades of war and human rights violations, can make the decision about giving amnesty to war criminals in our country,” Ahmad Nader Nadery, spokesman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told IRIN in Kabul.
“AIHRC welcomes efforts for promoting reconciliation, but at the same time we believe granting blanket amnesty will only permit impunity in our country,” Nadery said.
In a statement issued on 1 February, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) agreed with the concerns expressed by rights groups.
“For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled. No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves,” the statement read.
It added that the proper implementation of the Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice - a three-year plan launched by President Karzai in December last year - was essential for addressing post-war justice in Afghanistan.
The plan contains five key elements: acknowledgment of the suffering of the Afghan people; strengthening state institutions; finding out the truth about the country’s bloody past; promoting reconciliation; and establishing a proper accountability mechanism.
In implementing this plan, the Afghan people have the full backing of their international partners, including the UN, the UNAMA statement said.
Some government officials supported the new bill. “All Afghans, including those who are currently fighting against the government, can join the reconciliation process,” Khalid Farooqi, an MP from the south-eastern Paktika province, said.
Others spoke out against it. Shukaria Barakzai, a leading women’s rights activist and member of the lower house, said the bill contradicted the current constitution of Afghanistan. “It was only a clear attempt by warlords to bury their atrocities and crimes,” Barakzai, who protested against the bill, said.
“According to our constitution, everyone has equal rights. It is not the responsibility of parliament to make such decisions about war crimes but it is only the duty of our judiciary,” she added.
In a December 2006 report, the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said President Karzai and his international backers failed to address post-war crimes in Afghanistan. It said several high-ranking officials of the current Afghan government had been implicated in war crimes during the factional war in the early 1990s in Kabul.
HRW listed parliamentarians Abdul Rabb Rasul Sayyaf, Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Burhanuddin Rabbani, Minister of Energy Ismail Khan, Army Chief of Staff Abdul Rashid Dostum, and current Vice President Karim Khalili as major human rights violators.
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