The Statement of the One-Day Conference on Justice and Reconciliation

Kabul, November 10, 2010

Several decades of war, instability, and persistent insecurity in Afghanistan has made the
need for sustainable peace urgent and necessary particularly as the level of safety has
become progressively deteriorated. Continuation of war and insecurity has not only
destroyed the socio-political fabric of society, but has had a drastic psychological impact
on the people of Afghanistan.

Today, when thinking and talking of peace, we should pay more attention to healing the
social and psychological wounds of society, as sustainable peace cannot be achieved
without paying attention to the needs of victims. Therefore, addressing issues of justice
should be a priority in the process of strengthening peace in the country given that justice
is as integral to sustainable peace as security.

We, civil society and human rights activists, believe that peace can be achieved only if
justice, human rights and human dignity are both respected and protected in the peace
and reconciliation process. Only a just peace process can ensure long-term stability. At
the same time, peace is and should be treated as a national rather than as an
individual/group-centric process, in order to garner public trust and support, particularly
in a multi-ethnic society. Peace can be a national process only if equal participation is
guaranteed to all members of the society, from all walks of life, through a process that is
open, transparent and inclusive. If government or other circles attempt to use peace as a
means of achieving illegitimate or short-term political purposes, it is obvious that peace
cannot be achieved; rather it would further weaken public support and trust of the process,
resulting in the Government of Afghanistan’s loss of further legitimacy. Therefore, if it
genuinely wants to bring long-term peace in the country, the Government must not use
the ‘reconciliation’ process as a political tool intended solely for the political gains of
particular ideological, ethnic, tribal or religious groups and circles.

We would like to declare that:

For any reconciliation process to be successful it should be reflective of society in general.
In other words, the current reconciliation process should be more representative and
inclusive. We further emphasize that the Afghan government and the international
community should take the recommendations and concerns of Afghan civil society,
especially women’s representatives, into consideration in any reconciliation process.

Unfortunately, the comments and speeches of the representatives of the High Peace
Council show that it does not have a clear vision and strategy for the reconciliation
process. Information about the reconciliation process is not reaching the people, who
remain largely unaware of it. We reiterate our concerns with the opacity of the current
reconciliation process. It will only be successful when the people of Afghanistan are
fully informed and involved.

We believe that Parliament, as the representative of the people, should have more say in
this important process, as it has the right to make binding decisions on behalf of the
Afghan people. We recommend that the High Peace Council consult with both the
Parliament and civil society — with parliamentary consent being necessary to continue its

Most importantly, as the representatives of civil society and conference participants today,
we are concerned after listening to the speeches of High Peace Council representatives
that the privileges/concessions promised to the Taliban should by no means undermine or
compromise the achievements of the past nine years in terms of civic values and human
rights, especially women’s rights, enshrined in the Constitution. The people of
Afghanistan have a right to know whether the current reconciliation process would
compromise these constitutional rights and values, as well as other achievements of the
last nine years. Will the concessions promised to the Taliban affect those rights? How
will the reconciliation process affect human rights, particularly the rights of women?
Specifically, today’s conference participants make the following recommendations to the
Government of Afghanistan:

1) Establish a truth-seeking commission as a first step towards incorporating justice
in the peace process; to carry out a national consultation to make the process more

2) Listen to victims, provide them with reparations, and establish a viable
mechanism to heal their wounds;

3) Change the structure of the High Peace Council so to make it more inclusive and
more representative; more specifically civil society should be given more space in
the council, in Kabul and in the provinces;

4) Ensure that the peace talks are transparent and that the rights of minorities and
women rights will be protected and that civic values, and other Constitutional
rights and values will not be compromised. More importantly, the process should
by no means sacrifice justice for peace;

5) Establish a mechanism within the peace process so that the Afghan people, and
Afghan civil society remains engaged and informed throughout the process; and

6) Ensure that the authority and power of the High Peace Council remains within the
framework of the Constitution and that it is well-defined and clarified.
To the International Community, we make the following recommendations:

7) Commit long-term to continued engagement in Afghanistan, to support Afghan
civil society in its struggle for a just peace, and also to ensure that any peace deals
with the Taliban that compromise or sacrifice the achievements of the past nine
years are not supported.

Finally, we, the representatives of civil society, would like to state our further support for
and readiness to cooperate with a transparent, inclusive and just peace process. More
importantly, in order to address the issue of justice in the reconciliation process, we
suggest that a committee composed of the representatives of the Afghan government,
civil society and women’s groups, international human rights organizations, the
international community, the High Peace Council, and the Afghan Parliament be
established to decide how this can best be done. This committee could look into the
current documents on reconciliation, such as the Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation
and Justice, and other relevant documents in order to formulate its recommendations and
decisions. We again emphasize that without addressing the need for justice we cannot
achieve peace in Afghanistan.

Description of the conference, via ICTJ:

ICTJ, in conjunction with the Open Society Institute and the United Nations Assistant Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, held a one-day Conference on Justice and Reconciliation in Kabul, Afghanistan on Nov. 10, 2010.

The conference was organized in response to ongoing discussions of a peace process in Afghanistan, in particular the recent adoption of the multi-year Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program (APRP) and President Karzai’s appointment of a 70-member High Peace Council (HPC), which would oversee the program’s implementation.  The APRP makes scant reference to accountability and Afghanistan’s obligations under international law, while the HPC includes several individuals whose legitimacy and human rights records remain under question.

The one-day event brought together more than 60 government and civil society representatives from all regions of Afghanistan to Kabul to discuss ways in which to legitimize and strengthen the current peace process to contribute to just and lasting peace.

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