Statement of the One-Day Conference on Justice and Reconciliation

In the name of God

Statement of the One-Day Conference on Justice and Reconciliation

November 10, 2010, Kabul, Afghanistan

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 work.

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 inclusive;

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.

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