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Afghanistan peace jirga's unlikely critics: victims of war crimes

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The middle-aged woman, who goes by one name, lost two sons, a daughter, father, and brother to rocket attacks during the 1990s civil war as mujahideen factions, having beaten back the Soviet Army, now battled one another for power. During the Taliban era that followed, her husband, accused of opposing the regime, was imprisoned and tortured.

Amnesty law

The war victims’ lobby had hope a few years ago that the government would heed their call – in 2005 it adopted a Transitional Justice Action Plan that called for the acknowledgment of suffering, removal of war crimes perpetrators from senior positions, and documentation of human rights abuses, among other requirements. But it was never implemented and instead expired last year.

In January it came to light that the government had adopted an amnesty law in 2007 and kept it under wraps. The law protects all belligerents, past and present, from prosecution. It passed without much comment from the international community.

“Accountability, not amnesia for past and present crimes is a prerequisite for genuine reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan,” the TJCG said in a statement criticizing the amnesty.

The law prevents virtually all investigation or prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, rape, and torture, they pointed out. It has no cutoff date, thus allowing armed groups to continue to act with impunity. Though it allows victims to seek prosecution for war crimes, critics point out that individuals cannot realistically take on a warlord.

Two other independent groups – the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) – have also criticized the law. They point to Afghanistan’s international treaty obligations, which calls for the prosecution of certain serious crimes.

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