The Karzai government adopted a five-point plan for accountability. It refused amnesty for gross violators of human rights abuses. An action plan was created by Afghan officials and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, with the support of the United Nations and the international community. The plan consisted of a five-part strategy for peace, justice and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It contained measures to concretely recognize and remember the sufferings of the Afghan people during the long civil war; to increase public confidence in their State institutions; to promote reconciliation and national unity; and to strengthen the criminal justice system, including the affirmation that amnesty would not be granted to gross human rights violators (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor).
The test of these measures, of course, lies in the efficient implementation. Afghan government adopted a controversial amnesty law, which seemed to shield certain groups from legal or judicial pursuit. President Karzai explained that the amended law would safeguard victims' rights and the just punishment of the violator. Yet the overall human rights situation remained very poor with the Taliban's continued, numerous and systematic abuses. The Afghans could not change their leaders or government peacefully. The Taliban implemented summary executions where they had control. They imposed strict and oppressive means of punishment. Their Islamic courts and religious police, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice interpreted the Islamic law most severely. The Ministry executed punishments like stoning to death, flogging, public executions and amputations. The conditions of prisons were poor. The Taliban arbitrarily conducted arrests and detentions and violated citizens' privacy rights, indiscriminate bombings, and set many parts of the country under civil war conditions. They significantly limited the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly and association. The many years of conflict and oppression have internally displaced approximately 258,600 Afghans. In the meantime, more than 2.8 million live outside the country as refugees. Although many of them remain discouraged to return, approximately 133,600 of these refugees had voluntarily returned from Iran under a UN High Commissioner for Refugees-Iran agreement on voluntary repatriation (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor).
The human rights situation of Afghan women was specifically poor, as violence and discrimination against them remained huge problems throughout the country (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2001). The Taliban also detained persons on the basis of their ethnic origin, denied workers' rights and practiced child labor. The situation in areas outside Taliban control was not better. Massod's forces and the Northern Alliance also committed countless and serious abuses. Masood's forces staged several sporadic attacks against Kabul while anti-Taliban forces bombed even at civilians without discrimination. Factions in these outside areas also violated citizens' privacy rights. These forces were believed responsible for political killings, abductions, kidnaps for ransom, torture, rapes, arbitrary detentions, and lootings (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor).
The lack of a workable nationwide judicial system, authorities depended on the interpretation of Islamic law and traditional codes of justice among the tribes (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2001). The Taliban's Islamic courts rendered an extremely fanatic interpretation of the Islamic law in trying criminal cases and resolving disputes. UN reports said that the Taliban had a lower and a higher court in each province and a Supreme Court in Kabul. Mullah Omar decreed in 1999 that the Supreme Court and military courts should not interfere with one another. These courts could impose punishments, such as execution and amputation for sessions usually lasting only a few minutes. The decisions were usually final. Defendants did not have any right to an attorney (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor).
Specific steps for this problem may include:
Identification of national and local laws in conflict with international human rights standards.
Training advocates and human rights defenders to promote human rights at the national and local levels
Sensitizing public officials on gender issues according to human rights standards and eliciting their support for gender mainstreaming policies in employment
Organizing seminars and workshops and producing information materials in the local language for awareness on human rights issues.
Jirga is the traditional mechanism of conflict resolution in Afghanistan (Wardak 2007). It has its deep roots from the nation's culture and history. It is closely linked with the social order of the Afghan village, tribe and society as a whole. Its norms, techniques and processes shape and define indigenous beliefs and ways. The Afghans resolve their local, tribal and national disputes through this mechanism. It is thus a fundamental aspect of their identity essentially marked in their minds. Records exist on its effectiveness in resolving conflicts in the various levels of Afghan society. It holds the promise of the same effectiveness in the future. Its success has always depended on the extent of the perception of its legitimacy. It has, however, transformed to encompass relationships among individuals and societies at national and global levels. It has ceased to be a mechanism with a context confined to the Afghan village, tribe and nation alone. It has expanded to include the "global" village. It underwent the change in response to the demands of the 21st century. It must view men and women as equal individuals within the Afghan society. It now possesses the potential to connect and bridge tradition with modernity and express traditional values in a modern setting and standpoint (Wardak).
The Pashtunwali is the centuries-old verbal or unwritten code, which guides the daily lives of Pashtuns (Baute 2002). It means "the way of the Pashtuns." It precedes the Islamic Sharian and is considered the only real instrument of conflict resolution in tribal and rural regions of southeastern Afghanistan. Its basic doctrines are carried out by quasi-judicial institutions, called jirgas. A Council of Elders runs a jirga. The institutions operate in the different Pashtun social structures, such as clan, tribe, village and nation. Outsiders who can identify the elders and secure their cooperation will likely obtain their support. Central to the way of the Pashtuns is honor. A social contract binds all Pashtuns to avenge the breach of their honor. It is their collective belief and cultural understanding that revenge must be exacted when one is deprived of his woman, land, water, animal or any other possession. The offense went beyond theft and over to a question of honor. It was a tooth-for-a-tooth situation, which often leads to revenge killings and violence that can endure for generations (Baute).
Intervening countries and entities take stock of the increasing sympathy felt by many Pashtun tribes towards the Taliban (Baute 2002). The tribes felt alienated by the government of Kazai and the failure of foreign aid to reach their villages. Effective negotiations with the Pashtuns could crack up the core of insurgency in a few years, according to observers. There are, however, certain things to remember about negotiating. Democracy and gender equality would take a long time to sink. There was also more than one source of legitimacy in Afghanistan. The State competed with traditional structures and religious institutions. The Afghans' concept of right and wrong derives from sources other than the constitution or a bill of rights (Baute).
Specific measures, which can be taken to address conflict resolution, are:
Strengthening the role of indigenous justice mechanisms, such as jirga, marka, nanawatay, and teega, in conflict resolution and peace-building
Developing and modernizing indigenous mechanisms for integration into the national justice system for resolution of local and petty civil and criminal cases
Organizing and arranging competitions among youth and students on themes of peace, national reconciliation and the disadvantages of drug use
Organizing workshops and seminars on non-violence and peace, based on the lessons of local history and culture.
Baute, Nicole. The Man Who Helps Canadian Troops Understand Afghan Life and Culture. Military News for Canadians: MilNewstbay, 2007
Khan, Razullah. A Social Traditional Backdrp[. The Frontier Post: thefrontierpost.com,
Shroder, John Ford. Afghanistan. Microsoft Encarta: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.
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Stromseth, Jane E. Pursuing Accountability for Atrocities after Conflict: What Impact on Building the Rule of Law? Georgetown Journal of International Law: Georgetown