Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament passes bill granting immunity for “jihad” war crimes
The bill would enshrine in law a double standard for war crimes committed in a “jihad” setting. If it passes in both houses of parliament, will Karzai sign it? “Jirga grants immunity for war crimes,” from AFP:
KABUL: Afghanistan’s warlord-filled parliament has approved a bill ruling out judicial proceedings against men accused of rights abuses in the past 25 years of conflict, a spokesman said yesterday.
The lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, approved the legislation on Wednesday saying it was in the interests of peace and reconciliation, parliament secretariat spokesman Haseeb Noori said. It has to be passed by the upper house before being sent to President Hamid Karzai for signing into law.
The move is controversial in Afghanistan where commanders of the Soviet resistance of the 1980s have been accused of war crimes and abuses including murder during the country’s 1992-1996 civil war.
It was criticised by the country’s top rights body and by outspoken legislator Malalai Joya, one of the few MPs that did not approve the bill, who said unity would not be brought about by “forgiving national traitors.”
International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) called last month for a truth and reconciliation court to deal with war crimes and human rights abuses, including by some who still “hold high office”.
The National Reconciliation Bill says the “defenders” of the jihad “must be treated with respect and be defended against any kind of offence,” Noori said.
“In a move to reconcile different communities, the law states that no political party or groups involved in the past two and a half decades of war will be pursued by the judiciary,” he said.
A translation of the first article reads: “Jihad, resistance and our people’s rightful wars for defending their country and religion are counted as vital national pride and must be honoured… and appreciated by suitable privileges.”
The bill also calls on people who oppose Karzai’s government, including the extremist Taliban movement waging a bloody insurgency, to join a process to bring peace to the war-battered country.
Joya, known for standing up to the jihadi commanders who occupy many of the seats in parliament, said the draft was unjust and went “against the will of the people.”
“National unity cannot be achieved through forgiving national traitors,” she said.
“They must be tried. In fact, they have already been tried in the minds and hearts of people and they should be tried officially,” she said.
Only victims of abuse could choose to forgive the perpetrators, said Nader Nadery from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
The commission “welcomes efforts for promoting reconciliation. At the same time we believe granting blanket amnesty will only permit impunity,” the commissioner said.
The commission has been pushing for a national reconciliation process that delves into what happened and results in measures to remove human rights abusers from positions of power.
HRW said in December Afghan and international judges would hear cases relating to the 1979-1992 communist regime which included the Soviet occupation, the 1992-1996 civil war and the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.
“Several highly placed members of the current Afghan government and legislature were implicated in war crimes,” it said.
The watchdog named former minister Mohamed Qasim Fahim, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, energy minister Ismail Khan and vice president Karim Khalili as meriting human rights charges.