Afghanistan president signs war crimes amnesty bill into law

[JURIST] A revised version of a controversial bill granting amnesty to groups that allegedly committed war crimes [JURIST news archive] was signed into law Saturday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] after being approved [JURIST report] earlier in the day by the Afghan parliament, which includes many former militia leaders. The resolution bars the state from independently prosecuting individuals for war crimes absent accusation from an alleged victim. It also extends immunity to all groups involved in pre-2002 conflicts, as opposed to only leaders of various factions alleged to have committed war crimes during the 1980s resistance against Soviet forces and war crimes committed during the country's civil war [CNN backgrounder]. The Taliban and other human rights violators active before the establishment of the December 2001 Interim Administration in Afghanistan are protected under the bill. Critics say the law may violate Afghanistan's constitution [text] as well as certain international human rights treaties. MPs opposing the bill reportedly were threatened by former militiamen in the national assembly.

Both houses of the Afghan parliament initially approved a resolution calling for amnesty [JURIST report] for leaders in February. That resolution drew some popular support [JURIST report] but was criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [JURIST report] and other rights advocates. Afghanistan's highest body of Islamic clerics also opposed the issuance of a blanket amnesty, arguing that the perpetrators of war crimes can only gain forgiveness from the victims and not the parliament. IRIN has more.

 

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