Wave of Civilian Casualties Underscores Importance of Victims’ Rights in Peace Process

Kabul, February 27, 2011

Responding to the recent wave of deadly attacks against civilians, the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG), a leading Afghan civil society coalition, Sunday called for the Afghan government and international community to take immediate action to ensure that human rights are protected in national peacebuilding. The coalition also called for an end to air strikes in populated areas and the extension of due process to individuals held on suspicion of involvement in crimes of war.

“Justice must be the original objective of the peace and reconciliation process and the demands of victims must be considered,” said the 26-member TJCG, which has spent the past two years working with civilian war victims associations and human rights organizations countrywide to build consensus on the role of justice in the still-nascent peace process and advocate for victims’ rights in national policy decisions.

In its Sunday statement, the TJCG called for “a review of the practices and unsuccessful working methods of the High Peace Council should be undertaken by the country’s parliament and new methods of working developed according to standards of justice, principles of transparency and the participation of the people, especially the victims” and the “immediate suspension of the implementation of the National Reconciliation, General Amnesty and National Stability Law.”

Enacted in late 2009, the Amnesty Law has become synonymous with Afghanistan’s climate of impunity for human rights violations and crimes of war. The law grants blanket immunity from prosecution to combatants from the past three decades and was written so broadly that it contravenes international law.

To reverse prevailing impunity, the TJCG called for the establishment of national institutions to address crimes and human rights violations and said foreign countries supporting the peace process must focus “more on the demands of the people and the victims of this country, rather than pursuing incorrect politics in contradiction to international commitments.”

Support for victims’ right must not compromise the rights of those accused of crimes, including suspected members of insurgent groups, the TJCG emphasized. “Those who have been accused of involvement in the commission of war crimes and human rights violations and who are currently detained in national and international detention centres must be urgently afforded due process and brought to a fair trial.”

International military forces must also do more to avoid directly causing harm to civilians, the TJCG stressed. Regarding recent reports that NATO air strikes killed dozens of civilians in southeastern Afghanistan, the TJCG said, “NATO military forces must prevent the killing of civilians and bombardment of residential areas and must conduct a proper investigation into the recent incident in Kunar province and similar incidents where high numbers of civilian causalities are alleged.”

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