After a society is torn apart by conflict or repression, who decides whether to remember or...
Photo: A French soldier of the 13rd BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins) watches two Afghan women and a baby walk on the road Axe Vermont between Nijrab and Tagab in the Kapisa. JOEL SAGET/AFP/GettyImages
NEW YORK, July 24, 2012- As new evidence of past violations comes to light, Afghanistan must prioritize transitional justice measures to break the cycle of abuse, says the latest briefing paper by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Transitional justice measures include prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs and reforms of key institutions, and aim to redress the legacy of massive human rights violations of the kind committed in Afghanistan.
In 2006, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) launched an unprecedented effort to document the violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan between 1978 and 2001. Though it has not yet been made public, the 1000-page AIHRC Conflict Mapping Report is the most comprehensive documentation of this period in Afghanistan to date.
Although the report does not explicitly name perpetrators, contrary to some media reports, it details patterns of abuse including summary executions, disappearances, indiscriminate bombardments, torture, rape and the massacre of prisoners between the Saur Revolution and the fall of the Taliban.
ICTJ recognizes the AIHRC Conflict Mapping Report as a major new opportunity for transitional justice measures in Afghanistan. The new ICTJ briefing paper entitled “Afghanistan: The Past as a Prologue,” provides analysis of the past reports identifying the patterns of abuses and puts forth recommendations to the government of Afghanistan as it confronts this new evidence of the past.
The paper asserts that transitional justice should be part of a comprehensive strategy to break the cycle of abuse over 33 years of conflict in Afghanistan. The government should establish documentation, investigation and other truth-seeking measures to address past abuses, and enact legislation criminalizing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The government of Afghanistan should publicly accept the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s Conflict Mapping Report. It should renew its commitment to the 2006 Action Plan for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation, and publicly acknowledge crimes from each phase of the conflict.
ICTJ additionally calls on Afghanistan’s international partners to support transitional justice measures. The government of Afghanistan and international actors should recognize that peace, stability, and justice are inextricably connected.
For the past decade, the Karzai government has resisted efforts to incorporate transitional justice measures into its efforts to establish a stable post-conflict state. The failure to implement serious reform of the police or judiciary has critically undermined the administration’s legitimacy. Strategic, long-term planning is necessary to establish the rule of law, good governance, and transitional justice measures.
As the last ten years have indicated, Afghanistan cannot emerge from conflict without addressing its past. Afghans have repeatedly voiced their desire for documentation of past abuses, yet until now, this has been largely unanswered. ICTJ recognizes that no document can fully define what the Afghans have lived through. Yet through comprehensive documentation projects such as the AIHRC Conflict Mapping Report, reckoning with the past can be the first step to prevent the recurrence of atrocities.
The ICTJ briefing paper "Afghanistan: The Past as a Prologue" is available here.
ICTJ assists societies confronting massive human rights abuses to promote accountability, pursue truth, provide reparations, and build trustworthy institutions. Committed to the vindication of victims’ rights and the promotion of gender justice, we provide expert technical advice, policy analysis, and comparative research on transitional justice measures, including criminal prosecutions, reparations initiatives, truth seeking, memorialization efforts, and institutional reform. For more information, visit www.ictj.org.
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