By Aunohita Mojumdar
Friday, March 26, 2010
Afghanistan's amnesty for war criminals is not playing well in a therapy theater group for Kabul women victimized by years of violence. They wait for a form of justice while perpetrators of violence get impunity and a chance to hold positions of power.
Instead, in a development that caught the world off guard, the government earlier this year announced it had adopted an amnesty law as far back as November 2008, a fact it had kept under wraps until now. The amnesty is in perpetuity for all combatants, including war criminals and those who committed rape. The women here expect it to include some of the military commanders of the 1992-1996 violence.
"Who is [Afghanistan's president] Karzai to forgive the deaths in my family?" said Sakina, a middle-aged widow from Dasht-e-Barchi, a poor neighborhood of west Kabul. She lost her husband and niece in the conflict. "He wants to give the Taliban money, land and privileges. To me, a victim, he gives me a widow's pension of 300 Afs ($6) a month. Karzai says he will forgive the Taliban? Who gave him this right?"
In 2007, Parliament introduced a law to prevent the prosecution of individuals responsible for large-scale human rights abuses. The bill produced widespread outcry and rights groups and international donors thought it was dropped.
Earlier this year, however, it came to light that the law been adopted quietly at some point in 2008. It says all those engaged in hostilities before the formation of an interim government in December 2001 shall "enjoy all their legal rights and shall not be prosecuted;" it also promises the same immunity to all those currently involved in hostilities if they lay down their arms and adhere to the constitution.
The coalition of groups calling for implementation of the transitional justice program passed a resolution earlier this month calling for a repeal of the amnesty law.
Meanwhile, the government is preparing to hold a peace meeting during the first two days in May, which will include clerics, community leaders and elders and is designed to bring current armed insurgents back into civic life.
Many women here see the meeting as a chance for perpetrators of violence to join the government and hold positions of power, with no accountability and no punishment.
Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian journalist who has reported on the South Asian region for 20 years. She has been living in Afghanistan since 2003.
Human Rights Watch's appeal to repeal amnesty law: