Accountability not Impunity: Only victims have the right to forgive
TJCG statement on Amnesty Law
“We do not give anyone else the right to forgive or deal with the blood of our dead”
– Woman whose father and brother were killed by a rocket during the civil war
The Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG), a coalition of 24 civil society organisations, calls upon the Government of Afghanistan to immediately suspend the ‘National Reconciliation, General Amnesty and National Stability Law’. The TJCG contends that rather than promote reconciliation and stability, by granting a blanket amnesty this law promotes impunity and prevents genuine reconciliation. Accountability, not amnesia, for past and present crimes is a prerequisite for genuine reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. All Afghans will suffer as a result of implementation of this law, which undermines justice and the rule of law.
The people of Afghanistan are all victims of the egregious crimes and human rights abuses committed over the past three decades. All ethnic groups, geographical regions and social groups have suffered. The fact that the people of Afghanistan have suffered should not leave us speechless in trying to address justice for these crimes.
The government of Afghanistan does not have the right to usurp the rights of victims. Only the victims have the right to forgive perpetrators. But the state has a duty to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations such as disappearances, torture and extra judicial killings. Although there is provision in Article 3 (3) for victims to bring individual claims, this places an unfair burden upon victims, who have already suffered so much and would put themselves at risk of reprisals given the impunity that prevails in Afghanistan today. This provision is particularly impractical so far as it concerns women and the many victims of sexual violence, who already face considerable barriers to obtaining justice.
Provision for the granting of amnesty in respect of future crimes further undermines the legitimacy of the law and serves as an open invitation for the continued commission of abuses with impunity.
The TJCG calls upon the government of Afghanistan to:
1) Immediately suspend the ‘National Reconciliation, General Amnesty and National Stability Law’ with a view to its eventual abolishment.
2) Ensure widespread consultation with victims, human rights organizations, civil society and the people of Afghanistan when drafting laws. Parliament must represent the will of the people of Afghanistan, not the illegitimate will of a minority.
3) Respect the rights and legitimate grievances of victims. It is not the right of the government to forgive and grant amnesties to war criminals. The government should support victims and take appropriate measures to ensure their ability to exercise their fundamental rights. A special unit should be established within the government to support transitional justice and victims needs, including witness protection.
4) Ensure that all laws are constitutional and do not violate fundamental rights.
5) Ensure that all laws are reviewed for consistency with Afghanistan’s obligations under international law and ensure that Afghanistan upholds its obligations under international law. All states have a non-derogable duty to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture. The amnesty law is in breach of Afghanistan’s international obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutes of Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
6) Urgently re-commit itself to the implementation on the Action Plan on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, which clearly states in Key Actions 4 and 5 that there can be no amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights.Share