Peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups who are fighting the Afghan government, has been the essential part of Afghan government policy since 2001. Despite the efforts of nearly one a half decades and many political and financial investment for peace process, violent conflict has been intensified leaving enormous military and civilian casualties. Issue of peace talk with the Taliban is frequently raised in winter (No-war season) by media, but without tangible results, another war season arrives and the Taliban continue to fight Afghan government and people with more power and casualties. In spite of more than a decade of efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and reach sustainable peace, it seems no tangible result and even no positive prospect for peace and stability.
However, National Unity Government (NUG) signed a peace agreement with Mr. Hekmatyar recently which apparently signals a practical step towards peace process and reconciliation. Despite having wide media coverage, it has indicate less concerns neither about victims of conflict nor views of Afghan civil society and human rights peace activists. The recent peace agreement and extra order of president to implement it along with comparing to the Afghan government’s international human rights commitments and obligations have raised questions, concerns and arguments for civil society, human rights organizations and also the victims of human rights violation. Therefore, Afghan civil society organizations and human rights activist want to discuss and open up a dialogue on issues related to the recent peace agreement. The international human commitments of Afghan government in one hand and negligence of the victim’s rights in recent peace agreement, women’s participation in the peace process, prospects for national reconciliation and peace in the country as well as the consequences of political, security and negligence of human rights values in the peace talks and achieving positive and lasting peace through national unity government’s current policy in other hand are those issues which will be raised in the civil society and human rights debates.
Peace Agreement and Afghan Government’s Human Rights Commitments
According to Article VII of the constitution of Afghanistan, government has accepted almost all significant international Human Rights Conventions and documents. Hence, accession and acceptance of international human rights conventions require legal, judicial and serious political will to respect and abide by the Afghan government. Out of those international conventions on human rights which Afghan government has annexed to, the three documents is directly related to the accused and the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes committed in conflict and post-conflict countries. Those are the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal
Court are among those important international human rights documents that the Afghan government has annexed to them. Approval and signature of international human rights conventions create obligation and responsibility for member states. Hence crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity which occurred in the territory of Afghanistan without any judicial consideration and justification (according to the procedures and practices discussed in the relevant international institutions to pursue these cases), have to be evaluated and follow-up and then justice for the victims and the perpetrators should be executed. It is noteworthy that the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Court does not refer to crimes committed before the adoption of the Statute of the Court (Afghanistan has accession to the Statute of the Court on 10th February 2003). Based on International Criminal Court procedure, after the request of Member States, ICC prosecutors conduct a comprehensive investigation and review and thereafter announce its decisions. However, after 2001; several efforts has been done to ensure justice and investigate on crimes of decades of conflict in Afghanistan, despite of these measures, however, the pursuit of human rights violations and ensuring justice is still faced with numerous problems. In consistent with efforts to document, investigate, pursue human rights crimes of four decades of conflict in Afghanistan and establish justice, measures for the impasse continues. Joint effort of the Afghan government, UN representatives and human rights commission entailed to development of plan for peace, reconciliation and justice ( called transitional justice action plan) was ultimately finalized in 2006. The Afghan government and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission had undertaken their tasks and duties in accordance with the timetable envisaged in the peace, reconciliation and justice. The Human Rights Commission is obliged to carry out documentation of human rights violation occurred in past three decades in Afghanistan. Except Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission which completed its task, the Afghan government expressed its incapacity to fully support the development and implementation of transitional justice. However, both implicit and explicit position that was taken by the Afghan government for the process of peace, reconciliation and justice were practically deadlocked.
Two years later, parliament passed an amnesty law and national reconciliation and finally published in 2009 in official Gazette. After approval and sign of the “national reconciliation, general amnesty and national stability law”, Afghan civil society and human rights organizations faced to very hardship condition in order to investigate human rights violations and crimes caused by decades of conflict in Afghanistan. Along with political and legal problems; there is no firm will and desire in the Afghan political and legal system to follow up on crimes of the past. Peace policy and especially the content of peace agreement with Mr. Hekmat Yar have strengthened this cynicism to the process of “peace without justice” more than ever.
The “peace without justice” national unity government with Mr. Hekmatyar
Ensuring justice and addressing the demands of the victims of nearly four decades of conflict, has been the driven effort programs of peace activists and Afghan human rights organizations to further the reconciliation and achieving sustainable peace. Despite these efforts, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan both previous and current government of national unity has given almost no values to the demands of victims. On the contrary to human rights institutions and civil society’s approach towards peace in Afghanistan, the Afghan government’s peace policy has been based on the will of all parties to the conflict and ignores demands of victims. Structural conflict transformation requires securing justice, victim-
centered program for reconciliation and peacebuilding as well as a detailed understanding of the rout causes and dynamism of violent conflict in Afghanistan. Moreover, forgetting the needs of victims and ensuring justice in Afghanistan neither resulted to ceasefire nor sustainable peace. Rather the cycle of violence has continued at higher intensity. Specifically peace talks with the Taliban and recent peace agreement with Hezb-i Islami – Hekmatyar’s instead of being justice-oriented and attentive to the voice of victims, have stressed more on demands of conflict parties. The content of the agreement clearly shows the government of Afghanistan and Hezb-i Islami is inconsistent to the constitution of Afghanistan, the Afghan government’s international obligations and demands of victims of nearly four decades of conflict. From the fifth to the twenty-first article of this agreement consist obligations of the parties. The points listed below indicate the criticism and serious limitations of these agreements:
In Article V of this agreement, the Afghan government has pledged to deploy all efforts and its resources to eliminate embargo of the UN Security Council, UN member states and relevant international institutions against Hekmatyar as soon as possible. This commitment will be fulfilled by the government of National unity in which the slightest acknowledgement of the hardship, pain and suffering of the victims have been mentioned where leadership of Mr. Hekmatyar and his party is known to be responsible. This was due to the continuing culture of impunity and such approach to justice, peace and reconciliation is considered to be serious challenges.
In Article VI, simultaneously with the signing of a peace agreement, national unity government considers itself obliged to create conditions suitable of living anywhere in the Afghanistan for Hezb-e-Islami leaders and important personalities as preferred by them. Not only It did not address the demands of justice and the victims but even named as Mr. Hekmatyar as Emir of Hezb-e-Islami. It is worth mentioning that every political party in Afghanistan must continue to meet to be eligible in law, political parties and social organizations, be registered with the Ministry of Justice and should have work permit by these entities. Whereas, the Hezb-e-Islami led by Mr. Hekmatyar was itself not registered at the Ministry of Justice, besides it has been openly at war with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for over a decade.
Article VII stated national unity government’s commitment to recognize and accept the political activity of Hezb-e-Islami. It is evident that the Afghan constitution and political parties law does not recognize any party, unless you have a permit and the conditions for the work. Law on political parties and the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan predicted rituals and specific conditions for political parties, such as registration process in Ministry of Justice.
In the eighth and ninth article of this agreement not only demands of the victim for justice is absent, rather it persists on legal reform in election system for presence and high proportion of the party in the political field and legitimate honor to Mr. Hekmatyar.
According to Article X and XI of this Agreement, NUG provides security and accommodation costs and at least three living places for Mr. Hekmatyar based on preference. Beyond these, national unity government is committed to ensure judicial impunity of leaders and members of Hezb-e-Islami
in relation to all past political and military actions. Impunity without conditions even in the Amnesty Law was avoided, indicating that the national unity government ignore appealing right of victims and favored perpetrators and accused of several decades of crime. Therefore; Security guarantees and exemptions agreed and signed with Mr. Hekmatyar not only blatantly disregarded the demands and hopes of Afghan victims, nonetheless it signals permission for continuation of systematic violations of human rights in Afghanistan.
In article twelfth to the fifteenth of this agreement, the NUG is committed to have advice of the Hezb-e-Islami in decision making process, providing a certain portion for Hazb-e Islami members in government posts, inclusion of interested party members in the country’s defense and security structures and ultimately in the sector of promotion, pension and reintegration of those members of Islamic parties.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth of this agreement, while paving the way for the return of the Hezb-e-Islami members out of the country, national unity government is committed to facilitate the return of refugees alleged to Hezb-e-Islami in Pakistan and to provide shelter and land for them.
The next Four articles (eighteenth to the twenty-one) states the obligations of Hezb-e-Islami in which the dissolution of the military, banning cooperation and support of terrorist groups, efforts to secure peace and defend vital national interests are the main points of this article.
Above are the list of most important obligations of this agreement parties which shows, the national unity government’s official policy of peace, where the slightest importance to the views and demands of the Afghan people, victims of four decades of conflict, Afghanistan’s civil society and human rights organizations are not given. One of the key factors in the failure of peace plans succession and the continuing cycle of four decades of conflict in Afghanistan is no doubt, caused by the negligence of the voice of the people in reconciliation programs for peace and stability.
Inattention to the values of human rights and prospects for peace in Afghanistan
Countries in conflict have taken several approaches with the legacy of human rights for the victims of war crimes. The first and the most unsuccessful approach, is overlooking and denial of crimes against the people. This approach to peace and pursue of conflict crimes, is the dominant approach in peace and reconciliation for national government of Afghanistan. The result of this policy is not only an extension to the culture of impunity but at the same time causing more violence, insurgency and war. The second approach is the one in which national peace reconciliation and amnesty will be provided at the first. Efforts such as the adoption and signing of the “National reconciliation, general amnesty and national stability law” and Peace agreement with Mr. Hekmatyar fall under this approach. This approach is based on dual standard saying that justice is not compatible with peace and human rights with security and stability. It says that reaching peace and reconciliation is possible without considering values of human rights and justice. Both the first and second approach result in continuation of violence, disregard for the victims of war and causes the failure of structural transition from current situation. The third approach looks at justice
and peace in process manner taking a multi-step initiative to evaluate the legacy of war and human rights violations. In this approach, the administration of justice is in accordance with international human rights standards, to spread awareness of human rights, documentation, research and comprehensive research to understand the depth and range of crimes, from the elements and combined key components in third approach. According to this approach, the realization of justice does not mean illicit justice and means to deal with human rights violators and perpetrators of crime; on the contrary tries to lessen the suffering of the victims and, develop the mechanisms for the perpetrators about not repeating the crime . Although Afghanistan -to some extent- implemented awareness and documentation programs relating to legacy of decades of conflict but the policy of the government of NUG and its predecessor on reconciliation, has been consistent and based on amnesty. Comparing the experience of decades of official efforts for reconciliation and the content of these programs with the efforts of national unity government to compromise on the recent agreement with Mr. Hekmatyar clearly shows repetition of past mistakes. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes for peace and reconciliation efforts in the past is neglecting human rights and justice, denying the crimes of the past and overlooking the causes of crime and human rights violations in the past four decades of the conflict. Ensuring Justice, with consideration to the roots of conflict, knowing about such a basic component of structural and cultural violence can be considered to achieve positive and lasting peace. Therefore, regardless of the values of human rights and justice, it is impossible to reconcile and achieve the objectives of a national unity government and peace agreements in attaining sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The above mentioned points; provide an opportunity to institutions and civil society in Afghanistan to once again talk about peace based on justice and to launch reconciliation, based on respect for human rights values. Discussion about justice, Human rights and victim-oriented policies of the government does least plan this approach that coming together and dealing only with parties to the conflict in ending the violence is not possible. On the contrary, positive and lasting peace requires comprehensive plan, by paying attention to the roots of the conflict areas as well. Neglecting systematic human rights violations, lack of attention to the crimes on victims and inattention to justice is not only an obstacle to lasting peace but also perpetuate the cycle of violence.