Extend transitional justice scheme till 2009 – rights watchdog
KABUL, 23 April 2008 (IRIN) – Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has called on the government and the international community to extend until December 2009 the period in which human rights violations and war crimes committed in the 21 years prior to 2001 can be addressed.
The Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Action Plan in Afghanistan [http://www.aihrc.org.af/actionplan_af.htm] – known as the “transitional justice action plan” – was launched in December 2005 to address within three years cases of human rights violations and war crimes committed by various warring parties from the Soviet occupation of 1979 to the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
“The action plan has not been implemented effectively and according to its own goals; therefore we want it to be extended at least until December 2009,” Farid Hamidi, a commissioner in the AIHRC, told IRIN in Kabul.
Some international human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/12/11/afghan14826.htm], have also criticised President Karzai and his international supporters for doing little to bring war criminals to justice and instead following a policy of “reliance” on powerful warlords allegedly involved in past crimes.
About 75 percent of the 6,000 Afghans interviewed by the AIHRC on how to deal with past crimes said war criminals must be brought to justice, and over 60 percent of them rejected an amnesty for criminals.
Sixty-nine percent said they and/or immediate family members were direct victims of human rights violations in the past two decades, according to A Call for Justice report [http://www.aihrc.org.af/Rep_29_Eng/rep29_1_05call4justice.pdf], released in 2005.
However, since 2001 alleged war criminals have remained immune from any legal and judicial scrutiny, the AIHRC said.
“The voices of the Afghan people have not been heard as was made evident in A Call for Justice,” said Norah Niland, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) human rights unit.
According to Niland, the Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy covering a full range of processes and mechanisms associated with Afghanistan’s attempts to address past abuses, ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation – and should not be limited to criminal procedures and trials.
“It is also about acknowledgement, documentation, reconciliation and forgiveness,” Niland added.
She said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour demanded in November 2007 that the Afghan government and the international community “recommit to and revitalise” [http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=75425] the “transitional justice action plan”.
No peace without justice
The Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Action Plan was designed to heal the wounds of past crimes, hold criminals accountable and encourage nationwide reconciliation so that viable peace and stability could be cemented in Afghanistan, Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament, told IRIN.
However, the action plan lacked political commitment and its targets have largely been unmet, and Afghanistan has thus remained trapped in a cycle of conflict-related violence and widespread insecurity, the AIHRC said.
“Afghanistan does not have a way to achieve peace other than through an effective implementation of this action plan,” the AIHRC’s Hamidi said.
Hamidi’s assertion was echoed by Norah Niland of UNAMA: “Justice is intrinsic to a durable peace.”