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Afghanistan has suffered decades of conflict, resulting in severe human rights violations for which there has been little accountability. ICTJ works in Afghanistan to help document past abuses and advocate for justice-sensitive policies.

Kabul, 2009 - Women protest against the Shia Personal Status Law, which critics say legalizes marital rape.(Holly Pickett)


From 1978–2001 Afghanistan experienced a communist coup, a Soviet invasion, a mujahideen insurgency and a severely repressive Taliban rule. Systematic and widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed during this period included murder, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, and gender and ethnic discrimination.

A US-led military attack in 2001 resulted in the fall of the Taliban regime. From 2001–2011, some attention has been given to human rights through the establishment of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and support to developing independent media and civil society.

However, many important reconstruction processes—including disarmament efforts, elections, and legal reform—failed to uphold minimum levels of accountability. Many individuals with questionable human rights records found their way back to power.

From 2001–2005, the Afghan public began to discuss justice issues through AIHRC’s national consultation on justice. A clear sign that many Afghans strongly support justice and accountability measures, the consultation prompted the government’s adoption of an action plan for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation.

A deteriorating security situation stalled implementation of this plan. In 2007 parliament adopted a bill which, with few exceptions, gave blanket amnesty for all violations committed during the conflicts. The bill was later also approved by the president.

In 2010, faced with an escalating insurgency, the government gave increasingly clear signs that it intended to negotiate with the Taliban and other insurgents. To date, little attention has been given to issues of accountability in these negotiations.

Civil society actors and others seek to ensure that the so-called “reconciliation” efforts acknowledge victims’ views and preserve the possibilities of future justice initiatives.

ICTJ's Role:

ICTJ has worked in Afghanistan since 2002, seeking to promote justice-sensitive policies in Afghanistan.

We work with local partners to ensure that victims’ concerns and issues of justice and accountability are included in the political process, and to preserve the limited space available to promote human rights.

  • Technical assistance: We provide technical assistance and capacity-building to the AIHRC and other Afghan civil society organizations with trainings in advocacy, documentation and strategy.
  • Mentoring civil society organizations: ICTJ works to help civil society develop innovative, feasible projects and further local human rights work, such as through our ongoing theater projects.
  • Ongoing documentation initiatives: Information is the lifeblood of any accountability effort. Without documentation, it is easy to deny that human rights violations occurred. ICTJ assists local organizations in documenting violations committed over three decades of conflict, safeguarding against loss of evidence.
  • Advice to policymakers: ICTJ works with national and international policy makers to ensure not only an awareness of the violations that have been committed but to propose workable solutions to ensure accountability and moves towards reconciliation.