The amnesty law

The Guardian reports:

Taliban fighters who have maimed and murdered but who lay down their weapons will be given immunity from prosecution according to a law that came into force without announcement in the weeks running up to last month’s London conference on Afghanistan.

The sudden implementation of the controversial law, which had been shelved for almost two years since it was passed by a slim parliamentary majority in 2007, has raised fears that the Afghan government is ignoring the rights of Taliban victims for the sake of President Hamid Karzai‘s push for a quick peace deal with insurgents.

The gazetting of the law hasn’t “raised fears”;  it has confirmed them.  And, of course, the law applies not only to the current crop of insurgents, who, let’s not forget, aren’t the only killers of Afghan civilians over the past thirty years:

The reconciliation and general amnesty law also gives immunity from prosecution to all of the country’s warlords, the former factional leaders, many of whom are hated for the atrocities they committed during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s.

The sorry transitional justice process Criminal accountability  in Afghanistan was just dealt a very serious –if not killing– blow.  It will be interesting to see if the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and human rights NGOs start pushing the angle of international prosecution. With the implementation of the amnesty law, Afghanistan undeniably meets the ICC’s  “unable or unwilling” standard, and Human Rights Watch and other groups have long (as in, before 2001) advocated for an international tribunal for Afghanistan similar to those created for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Here is an account of the 1993 Afshar massacre, one of many atrocities committed during the civil war:

That first day, a rocket hit our house. My husband was wounded in the foot. He was bleeding. . . . People were rushing around: men, women, children, all fleeing their houses, going toward the Intercontinental Hotel. I told my husband, “Everyone is leaving, fleeing, no one is left.” And I said that we should go. But he said, “I can’t move. I can’t go with you. Leave me here, and flee.” And he told me to take the eldest daughter, and that taking her away was the most important thing. . . .

We went out [of the house], but I couldn’t go. I couldn’t leave him there—my husband. I had to go back. So I went back, and I told him that I wanted him to come with us, and that I would help him walk. . . . So then we went, I was helping him, he had his arm around my shoulder. I was also carrying my three-month-old son, and my eldest daughter was holding my three-year-old. We got as far as the water canal [about 80 meters away].

At that moment, some gunmen came up to us, Mullah Ezatullah’s men. The commander said, “Qalfak Chapat.” [A derogatory term for Hazaras referring to their facial features.] “I’m one of Ezatullah’s men, and I’ve been ordered to seize this area. I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget, for all of history.” He was a fat strong man, in plain Afghan clothes. But they didn’t do anything to us. They said, “We can reach you anywhere you go, we are everywhere, we control everything.” And they moved on.

So we were very scared. My husband said he could not go on. So we went back to our house. He made us leave, he insisted that I take our daughter, and so we went. We went [past] the Intercontinental . . . and we went to the Ismaili people [in Taimani], who helped us.

A few days later, a neighbor came to us, a Tajik who knew what was going on. He told us that Afshar was destroyed, my house was burned, and my husband was killed.

Today in west Kabul, survivors marked the 17th anniversary of these events and demonstrated against the immunization of the perpetrators from prosecution.

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