Amnesty International, February 9, 2010

Amnesty International Urges No Impunity for Afghan War Criminals

The backers of this ‘Impunity Bill’ should note that they cannot simply legislate away the history of gross human rights violations and war crimes committed in Afghanistan over the past three decades

A woman cries for Afshar massacre ( )
RAWA Photo: An Afghan woman recounts how her husband was killed in Afshar, west of Kabul. Hundreds of innocent people from Hazara minority were massacred by forces of Abdul-rab-Rasul Sayyaf and Ahmad Shah Massoud in this area in 1993

Amnesty International calls on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Parliament to immediately suspend controversial legislation that will give immunity from prosecution for serious violations of human rights, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, in the past 30 years.

The legislation, the “National Stability and Reconciliation” bill, was passed by both houses of the Afghan Parliament in early 2007 and published in the official Gazette in November 2008 but, unusually, it was not publicly divulged until January 2010.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, including the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), believe that this law is an attempt to provide legal cover for ongoing impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations, including the Taliban.

“The backers of this ‘Impunity Bill’ should note that they cannot simply legislate away the history of gross human rights violations and war crimes committed in Afghanistan over the past three decades. Nor can they silence the consistent demands of the Afghan people for justice and accountability,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

“There are real doubts about the legal validity of this ‘Impunity Bill’, as no national legislation can immunize perpetrators of international crimes. Furthermore, President Karzai never signed this bill, and it was only divulged to the public almost two years after Parliament voted on it.”

Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mullah Taj Mohammad, Younis Qanooni, Haji Almas and Mullah Ezatullah [...] are implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred during hostilities in Kabul in the early 1990s.
Human Rights Watch, September 15, 2005

Under this legislation, people who committed serious human rights violations and violations of the laws of war, including massacres, widespread enforced disappearances, and systematic use of torture, rape, public executions and other forms of ill-treatment would be immune to criminal prosecution if they pledge cooperation with the Afghan government.

“The record of the past eight years has been crystal clear: attempts to accommodate human rights abusers have only led to a deterioration of security and an erosion of the government’s legitimacy. Many of the people facing accusations of human rights abuses in the past are now in prominent government posts, facing new charges of engaging in human rights violations,” Sam Zarifi said.

During the bloody civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, men like Rabbani and Dostam turned Kabul into a pile of rubble, killing thousands of civilians. If they had been born in the Balkans, they and others like them would likely be sitting in a cell at the International Criminal Court in The Hague today.
Spiegel, May 14, 2007

Under the provisions of this legislation, Taliban figures who agree to cooperate with the Afghan government would also be immune to prosecution. The Afghan government and its international supporters identified reconciliation with the Taliban as a priority during the London conference in January 2010.

“Short term expediency in the form of reconciliation with the Taliban should not trump the rights of the Afghan people, and in particular Afghan women and girls, who have suffered greatly under the Taliban’s repressive strictures. The Taliban have had a record of terrible human rights abuses, both when they ruled Afghanistan, and now in the areas they control. They should be held to account for their actions, not be granted official impunity,” Sam Zarifi said.

“The Afghan people have time and again signalled that they want a government that protects and provides their human rights and that imposes the rule of law. This legislation is simply an effort to pervert the course of justice under the faulty guise of providing security.”

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