Reuters via Khaleej Times, February 1, 2007
Afghan assembly grants immunity for war crimes
UNAMA: "No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves"
KABUL - Afghanistan's parliament has granted immunity to all Afghans involved in the country's 25 years of conflict, lawmakers said on Thursday, despite calls by human rights groups for war crimes trials.
The only two survivors of a family killed in the crossfire of fundamentalist in-fighting in Kabul. (August 24, 1992)
The decision passed on Wednesday in the lower house, Wolesi Jirga, would also cover fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who now heads his own militant group, critics and supporters of the move said.
Rights groups have strongly pressed the government to punish those guilty of abuses, including some members of parliament and senior government officials, saying justice was vital for peace.
But the national assembly said its motion would help reconciliation in a nation shattered by years of war and civil strife that have left almost no family untouched by tragedy.
"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 2-"decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially," the motion passed by the assembly says.
"No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves.... For any process of national reconciliation to succeed the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled,"
"International experience shows that truth is vital to reconciliation. As a consequence, the search for truth and the rights of victims are central elements of Afghanistan’s Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation, and Justice."
UNAMA, Feb.1, 2007
The United Nations in Kabul objected immediately.
"For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled," it said in a statement.
"No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves."
The Wolesi Jirga elected in late 2005 includes former senior communist officials, ex-Mujahideen (holy warrior) leaders who fought the Soviets and some former Taliban.
Dozens are accused of human rights abuses.
Several lawmakers said President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, knew of the assembly's move in advance.
Analysts believe the hanging of Saddam Hussein may have spurred powerful Afghan politicians into acting against similar trials at home. "Afghans will see this as a sign that their parliament is more concerned with protecting its own members than the people," said Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch.
But many of those facing the most serious accusations, such as Abdul Rasul Sayaaf, are influential members of parliament.
The Guardian, Feb.1, 2007
"In a way, this provides immunity for all," Shukria Barakzai, a leading woman activist MP, told Reuters. She was among a small group of delegates who left the session in protest.
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former Mujahideen leader who was among the key legislators behind the amnesty, said it was in line with Karzai's efforts to push national reconciliation.
He also believed the immunity would cover Omar and Hekmatyar.
"This is a law and the law will be implemented on all individuals equally," he told Reuters.
The decision was approved days after Karzai again indicated he could consider talks with Taliban leaders to end the bloodshed after the country's most violent year since the Taliban's ouster.
One of Karzai's advisers on Wednesday clarified talks would not be held with the Taliban as a political, ideological or military group.
Characters Count: 4640