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Afghan's amnesty law a 'setback' to humanity

Apr 12, 2010

Rights groups across the world have urged the global community to act against the amnesty law which is said to protect Afghan’s warlords accused of crimes against humanity during the country’s gory civil war in 1992. The groups fear that active insurgents could use the law for future human rights abuses.

Kabul: The international community is being urged to act against a law protecting Afghan warlords accused of atrocities during the country's bloody civil war nearly 20 years ago.

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Human rights groups say the alleged perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity -- many of whom now sit in parliament -- should not be given immunity, amid fears that active insurgents could use the law in the future.

The United Nations' former special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, last month called the legislation a "setback" but few foreign governments have publicly backed his stance.

"The international community has so far been pretty quiet," Nader Nadery, a commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told AFP.

"There's a moral obligation and an obligation under international law that we condemn crimes against humanity. They should come out and say that it goes against Afghanistan's international commitments."

The case for prosecution has found support in communities most affected by the ethnic-based fighting, which erupted in 1992 when internationally-supported militias turned on one another after ousting Soviet forces three years earlier.

Some 80,000 civilians are thought to have been killed in the capital Kabul alone, which was turned into a cat's cradle of frontlines and came under daily bombardment from deadly rockets, mortar shells and machinegun fire.

"The killers must be imprisoned or hanged, so they can't do it again," said Parween, 30, whose husband's parents, four sisters and four brothers were killed in a rocket attack on their home in Karte-Sakhi.

"They destroyed people, not just those they killed. Life can never be the same for those who survived."

Others, though, appeared resigned to never seeing those who ordered or carried out the violence brought to book.

"I hand this over to God," said Marzia, whose nine-year-old son, Samad, was shot dead in front of her at their home in Afshar, western Kabul, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in the four-year conflict.

The gang who killed her son also cut off her finger to steal her gold ring.

"Whoever did this to me might have sisters and brothers," she said quietly. "God should punish their families in the same way."

Sayed Hussain Jan's 14-year-old son, Abdullah, was killed near the frontline as he went to visit a Shia Muslim shrine.

"These people will never be prosecuted or arrested. Nothing will happen. They're powerful people," said the 60-year-old.

The amnesty law has reopened old wounds in Afghanistan of the civil war, which ended when the hardline Taliban swept to power in 1996.

Parliament originally passed the legislation in 2007, prompting claims that the former warlords-turned-lawmakers were acting out of self-interest.

President Hamid Karzai vowed he would never introduce it but it appeared unannounced in the official government gazette earlier this year, effectively making it law.

With tentative steps being taken to talk to insurgents battling Karzai's Western-backed government and foreign troops, there are concerns that a new generation could also escape prosecution if they decide to renounce violence.

"The amnesty law is an invitation for future human rights abuses," the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams said last month.

It sent a message that "not only are these rights abusers here to stay but more might soon be welcomed," he added, calling for its repeal.

Foreign diplomats in Kabul admit that the law came in unnoticed as attention was focused on the US and NATO push to bring an end to the deadly, nearly nine-year war against the Taliban.

One Western official said the exact terms of the legislation were still unclear and admitted: "This one has slipped off the agenda... I don't think there's much pressure being exerted and it's not on the table."

But he said that, as in Northern Ireland or South Africa, Afghanistan's future depended on a pragmatic "realpolitik" of dealing with former men of violence, however distasteful that may seem to their victims.

This article appeared originally in AFP.

Source : Google News
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