jeopardize national reconciliation and security
The Afghanistan Justice Project today
warned that the resolution by Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (lower
house of the National Assembly’s) to grant immunity from
prosecution for former fighters accused of war crimes would
jeopardize—and not promote—national reconciliation and security.
Most importantly, issuing a blanket amnesty would cripple
efforts to promote accountability in the present, a vital need
if the country's institutions are going to perform in a way that
enhances security for all. Institutional reform, particularly in
the security sector, has foundered in part because of the lack
of accountability. Abuses are rife. The same institutions
responsible for arbitrary arrest and torture in the
past—primarily the police and intelligence services—continue to
engage in such abuses with impunity. The lack of accountability
in other government agencies has fueled corruption. After five
years of reconstruction, many Afghans are disillusioned; fear
the police and intelligence agencies; and still cite security as
their major concern. Unless this changes, there is little hope
for national reconciliation.
The group urged Afghanistan’s
international donors to denounce the resolution, and press
President Karzai to reject it. The group also urged donors to
give political and financial support to promptly implementing
the Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice formally
launched by President Karzai in December, which outlines a
long-term strategy to address the country’s legacy of war
crimes. The most important measures include appropriate
mechanisms for vetting potential political appointees and
candidates, new on-the-ground investigations of past abuses,
documentation, and ultimately establishing truth-telling
processes that will respect the rights of both alleged victims
In a report released in 2005,
Casting Shadows: War Crimes and Crimes
the Afghanistan Justice Project published new documentation on
war crimes and human rights violations committed by all parties
to the conflict in Afghanistan’s 23-year war. The report
represents the most comprehensive documentation of war crimes
publicly available; the purpose of that report was to put that
evidence into the public domain..The UN Mapping Report on Afghanistan had the same goal.
The Afghanistan Justice
Project report charges a number of current leaders with
responsibility for the actions of their troops during different
periods of the war. Among these leaders were several members of
the National Assembly who took the lead in advocating the
amnesty resolution, including Muhammad Muhaqiq, Abdul Rasul
Sayyaf and Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Some political actors in
Afghanistan dismissed any effort to account for past war crimes
as a marginal concern, or worse: a dangerous impediment to
achieving stability. There is no question that former commanders
who continue to control private militia remain a dangerous and
volatile force. However, those who have been vocal in condemning
any effort to account for the past include current leaders who
have the most to hide, and who have benefited from the silence
about the past to augment their power. Some have ties to
criminal networks linked to the country’s burgeoning opium
production and trade, and other smuggling activities. Many of
these commanders also have long records of similar abuses in the
past. Establishing security in the present—both for Afghans and
for foreigners working with them—cannot be seen in isolation
from this history.
Transitional justice must
be part of the political process in Afghanistan. The
Afghanistan Justice Project does not foresee the possibility of
bringing perpetrators to trial in Afghan courts any time in the
near future. However, the transitional justice strategy for
Afghanistan embraces a number of actions that could go far to
addressing the demands of the Afghan people for accountability
and security. By committing itself to this Plan, the Karzai
government has vowed to uphold international law, reject blanket
amnesties and commit itself to a process that respects the
rights of all Afghans—not merely the entitlements of former
In its report, the
Afghanistan Justice Project has documented a number of key
incidents from the different phases of the war in Afghanistan
that are important because of the magnitude of the crime or
because of the involvement of people who continue to wield
power. In these incidents, senior officers and commanders
ordered actions amounting to war crimes by their forces, or
allowed such actions to take place and did nothing to prevent or
stop them. The Afghanistan Justice Project’s intent in
documenting these incidents is not to impugn the cause for which
any of the armed groups fought, but rather to call for
accountability where those actions amounted to war crimes. It is
an issue of great concern to many Afghans: efforts by the Afghan
Independent Human Rights Commission have indicated strong
support among Afghans to address the legacy of the past. How
that should take place remains a choice for the Afghans to make.
The Afghanistan Justice Project report includes
documentation on some incidents that have never been
investigated in detail before.
From the post-1992
The Afshar massacre and mass rape in Kabul by Abdul Rasul
Sayyaf’s Ittihad-i Islami and Jamiat/Shura-i Nazar forces under
the command of Ahmad Shah Massoud in February 1993. This
massacre and mass rape of mainly Hazara civilians took place in
Afshar, Kabul. Some of those responsible for the killings and
rapes that took place hold positions of power today.
Torture, hostage-taking and summary executions by Hizb-i Wahdat
commanders in Kabul and Mazar-i Sharif 1992-1998.
The bombardment and rocketing of Kabul by all parties to the
conflict, 1992-1995, with a particular focus on the organization
of operations by Hizb-i Islami, along with a discussion of
indiscriminate attacks carried out by all of the other parties.
The massacre of Taliban prisoners by Junbish forces under Gen.
Abdul Malik Pahlawan in June 1997. The analysis on this
incident includes testimony from two survivors. At least 3,000
men, mostly conscripts, were systematically executed in what was
perhaps the single largest massacre of the entire war. The
incident was never fully investigated by the UN, and those
responsible continue to reside in Afghanistan.
Sexual assaults, summary executions of prisoners and other
abuses by Junbish commanders in Kabul and the north 1991-2001.
The same pattern of abuse by Junbish forces (among others) was
repeated after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
From the Taliban period:
Taliban massacres in Sar-i Pul and Gosfandi in 1999. The
Taliban’s culpability for war crimes against Afghans—as opposed
to the involvement of their top leadership with al-Qaeda—never
received much international attention, despite the fact that
some Taliban leaders responsible for these crimes may be in U.S.
custody, and others may be in Pakistan.
Summary executions by the Taliban in the districts of Bagram,
Kalakan, Qarabagh, and Mir Bachakot in 1999.
Mass burnings and destruction of means of livelihood in Shamali
by the Taliban in 1999.
From the pre 1992 period:
The Kerala Massacre by PDPA forces in 1979, in which nearly
1,000 men were killed apparently in reprisal for resistance
activity in the area. It was the largest massacre of this period
of the war.
The assassination of Sayd Bahauddin Majrooh by Hizb-i Islami in
February 1988. The assassination of the prominent poet and
editor was one of a series of attacks on Afghan intellectuals in
Pakistan in the late 1980s. According to evidence gathered by
the Afghanistan Justice Project, at least one of the persons
believed to be responsible for Majrooh’s murder continues to
reside in Pakistan.
Torture in mujahidin prisons, particularly the Lejdey facility
operated by the Shura-i Nazar faction in northeastern
These dossiers represent only part of the Afghanistan Justice
Project’s work. In each case, the Afghanistan Justice Project
has attempted to include not only direct witness testimony about
the events that took place but an analysis of the command and
control of troops responsible for the operations.