Kabul: The United Nations office in Afghanistan has voiced strong opposition to the Afghan parliament's approval of a bill granting immunity to war-criminals and exempting them from judicial proceedings.
The parliament, with a strong warlord presence and after a week of heated debates, approved a bill Wednesday that grants immunity to all individuals involved in atrocities in the past two-and-a-half decades, including the Taliban and war criminals from the country's 1992-1996 civil war.
The only two survivors of a family killed in the crossfire of fundamentalist in-fighting in Kabul. (August 24, 1992)
"For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled," the United Nations' political office said in a statement, adding, "No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves."
"Afghanistan's constitution guarantees for its citizens the right to freedom of expression," the statement said, adding that the Afghan people "have the full backing of their internationals partners, including the United Nations".
The resolution, which was posted on the body's website, has been drafted in 11 articles, and states that it was aimed at bringing peace by reconciling all the opponents of the government.
"For bringing peace and reconciliation among various stratum in the society and starting a peaceful life in Afghanistan, all those political and belligerent sides who were involved during the two-and-half decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially," it said.
"No group or political party is excluded from amnesty," the assembly's passed motion said, raising fears that the perpetrators of human rights crimes would be granted immunity.
"I am totally against it," said Shukria Barekzai, one of the few legislators who walked out of the session as a sign of protest while the lower house was voting for the bill.
"It is not right for the parliament members or even the right of Afghan president to forgive the war criminals. The legislation violates the constitution," she said, referring to rights of Afghan citizens assured in the constitution.
"It is the act of some warlords who try to bury their past atrocities by approving such a bill."
Afghanistan is also a signatory to the Geneva Convention, which obligates all states to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of international humanitarian law (war crimes), and international crimes, such as torture, genocide and piracy.
The New York based Human Rights Commission warned on Tuesday in a report that some Afghan warlord-MPs had been trying to grant themselves "blanket immunity against accusations of perpetrating war crimes".
"After three decades of suffering abuses, Afghans have repeatedly called for accountability for those responsible for serious human rights abuses, whether communists, warlords, or the Taliban," the commission's report said, adding, "There can be no sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan without respect for the rule of law."
The bill also asks for an extraordinary reconciliation commission to be formed within the assembly to accelerate the talks with opposition groups that include Taliban militants who have waged a stubborn insurgency against Afghan government and international allies since their ouster in late 2001.
The offer by the legislative body comes days after President Hamid Karzai once again offered an olive branch to Taliban extremists to lay down their arms and join mainstream society.
While Karzai made no distinction, the bill says any individual who "accepts the constitution of the country" could be benefited by the amnesty.
Taliban leaders in the past snubbed the offers and vowed to continue their war until the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The bill is yet to be endorsed by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Karzai, which are necessary steps for it to come into force as a law.