Since the 2005 elections, allegedly reformed Afghan warlords, communists and Taliban have slithered their way back into Afghanistan’s parliament as so-called representatives of their constituents. Early in the year, the lower and upper houses fancied a bill to pardon themselves and their social groups from being held responsible for the annihilation of fellow Afghans. The crafting of such a bill to pardon more criminals has raised the question: when is enough, enough?
In January, the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house) of Afghanistan’s National Assembly approved a bill named the Law for National Reconciliation and Amnesty, which granted immunity to Afghans who committed war crimes from 1979-2002 during the Soviet occupation, the civil war that followed, and the Taliban rule up to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Weeks later, the bill slid with approval through the Meshrano Jirga (upper house), leaving the verdict in the hands of President Hamid Karzai. This month, as President Karzai modified and signed the bill into law, the international community looked on wearily to see what is to become of the once promising future for the post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The revised law retains the stipulation that the state will not prosecute war crimes up through 2002, but it leaves open the right of victims to pursue justice in the corrupted courts. In effect, the war criminals have received amnesty despite the bills modification. The victims initially had no say in deciding whether they are better off if their former torturers have amnesty, therefore the criminals end up paying no price–not even having to offer a simple apology or acknowledgement for their unspeakable actions. In turn, the message sent out to the millions of orphans, widows, refugees, disabled men, women, and children is that no one will be held accountable for the atrocities committed against them and- their fellow Afghans.
Unfortunately, today it is not the people, but the increasingly corrupt parliament that are deciding the fate of those criminals, themselves, who were voted into office too often through the use of bribery, threats, and intimidation. The law is yet another justification for Afghans to distance themselves from the government which is supposed to represent its people. It will be a major setback in maintaining international support for Afghanistan, since the law once again effectively glamorizes war criminals, murderers, rapists, and looters as heroes to those who are their admirers, contrary to the Afghan constitution and the same Islamic law the country is titled under.
How will the Afghan government face the international community for pleas of assistance when it is evident help is not given from within to its country’s own citizens? It is once again evident that the former and existing warlords and communists who are in the parliament have no acknowledgement of the constituents they are supposedly representing or the disadvantaged country they are continuing to use to gain amnesty for themselves and those alike.
It is apparent that the MPs who have supported the passing of such a bill need not only retake a course in Democracy 101, but to more importantly understand and abide by the Afghan constitution — and not only when it is to their own benefit.
Nevertheless, the newly passed law has once again silenced the voice of Afghan women, who have suffered the bulk of atrocities the past three decades. Without support from the state which under the law will not try the war-criminals, who will represent the women, girls and widows who have suffered resulting from actions taken by the human rights offenders when they are struggling to make a living without adequate means of food, healthcare, education, and work? One can only wonder what is to become of the orphans whose parents have been killed by the hands or under order of those who wrote the law while the Taliban and al-Qaeda offer them a brighter future with a few dollars and a bomb to strap to themselves to avenge the death of their loved ones.
This law appears to set a precedent in the future to Afghans that any crime committed by Afghans against humanity will have a blind eye turned towards it. The international community can only be left to speculate what’s next, a carte blanche for the return of Taliban and Al-Qaeda?