Afghanistan: war criminals win amnesty vote

Around 25,000 rallied in the Afghan capital Kabul Feb. 22, calling for a war crimes amnesty for former Mujahedeen commanders to be made law. The protesters, who gathered in a stadium, included ex-Mujahedeen and several top government officials. “Whoever is against mujahedeen is against Islam and they are the enemies of this country,” former fighter Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is now an influential lawmaker, told the crowd. Supporters later marched through the streets of the city, shouting “Death to the enemies of Afghanistan!” and “Death to America!” (BBC, Feb. 23) Later that day, the upper house of Afghanistan’s parliament, the Meshrano Jirga, approved the amnesty bill. The vote came three weeks after the 249-seat lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, approved it. The bill now goes to President Hamid Karzai for his signature. (IRIN, Feb. 22)

Supporters of the measure say it is necessary for peace. “In order to bring reconciliation among various strata in the society, all those political and belligerent sides who were involved one way or the other during the two-decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially,” the motion reads.

But the United Nations and international human rights groups strongly oppose the measure. Critics points out that it would cover fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and rebel warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. “For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled,” the UN said in a statement. “No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves.”

Shukria Barakzai, a leading woman activist MP, was among a small group of legislators who left the lower house session in protest after the vote. She told Reuters the measure “provides immunity for all.” (Dawn, Pakistan, Feb. 1)

The vote is not a surprise, given that warlords dominate in Afghanistan’s parliament—as human rights groups warned back in the summer of 2005 when it was elected.

See our last post on Afghanistan.