Afghan government votes to deny justice to victims of war crimes
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Parliament has voted for an amnesty for leaders accused of war crimes during a quarter-century of fighting, arguing that it would help heal the deep divisions in Afghanistan.
The amnesty resolution, passed in the lower house Wednesday, covers the mujahedeen leaders who led the resistance against the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and later turned their weapons on one another, plunging the country into civil war.
Lawmaker Sayed Mustafa Kazmi, who backed the resolution, said it was aimed at fostering national unity. But rights activists have called for Afghanistan's factional leaders and warlords to face prosecution for the massacres and torture they allegedly committed in their struggle for power, especially during the 1992-96 civil war.
Only justice, the rights advocates say, will heal the wounds of Afghanistan's traumatic past.
But justice for the warlords would come at a political price. Several of the accused hold prominent positions in parliament and in the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, who has shown little enthusiasm for charging them with war crimes.
The resolution called for ``respect and honoring those who have participated in the holy war and resistance.'' Taliban and other militants who have laid down their weapons and joined the government should also be pardoned, it said.
The United Nations reacted coolly to the amnesty.
For national reconciliation to succeed ``the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled,'' the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said. ``No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves.''
The resolution follows a report from New York-based Human Rights Watch calling for Afghan officials - including Vice President Karim Khalili and Army Chief of Staff Abdul Rashid Dostum - to face trial before a special court.
Human Rights Watch also listed Energy Minister Ismail Khan, parliamentarians Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Mohammed Qasim Fahim and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani as among the ``worst perpetrators.''
Others who should also be brought to trial include Taliban leader Mullah Omar and fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the rights group said.
In December, Karzai launched a plan to help the country come to terms with decades of human rights violations by documenting past abuses. U.N. officials said the plan called for people who committed the crimes to be held accountable, but the government has yet to spell out what that might mean.
In the past, officials have argued that prosecuting still-powerful warlords and regional leaders - some of whom helped the United States oust the Taliban from power in 2001 - would undermine Afghanistan's fight against the resurgent Taliban movement.