International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Is transitional justice a forgotten issue in Afghanistan?

It is a legitimate concern for Afghans who are preparing themselves for their country’s third presidential elections on April 5th, a little under three weeks from today, and which will hopefully mark the first peaceful transition of power in the country’s history. Despite this achievement, many voters are concerned and frustrated that issue of transitional justice for war crimes over the past three decades has been lacking from presidential debates. For some of the candidates, this is understandably a difficult subject to approach, since a number of them have difficult pasts with conflict and war crimes. In the face of new government, Afghans are worried that the same culture of impunity and lack of transitional justice will plague Afghanistan in the future.

Over President Karzai’s tenure, the government has been criticized for the little progress it has made in efforts to enact transitional justice. In 2002, President Karzai helped to established the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was established to address war crimes that had been committed in the country prior to 2001. A national action plan recommended by the commission was launch by Karzai in 2006, but after the parliament enacted a general amnesty law in 2007, the action plan expired in March of 2009 despite having requested to be extended.

While the progress for transitional justice has been at a snail’s pace in Afghanistan, perhaps there still is hope. One example is the case of Vice presidential candidate, Rashid Dostum, who apologized publicly to the afghan people for his involvement in war crimes, seen by some as a political maneuver but by others as an encouragement for others to do the same and apologize on their own cognizance.

Transitional justice perhaps still has a place in Afghanistan, and after the election in a matter of week, we will have a better idea of how the country will move forward to address its past. However, the effort must be sensitive to what is both feasible and appropriate in light of limitations that the government has faced in the past.

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