Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Afghanistan passes law on amnesty for 'war crime leaders'

AP , KABUL

The Afghan parliament has voted for an amnesty for leaders accused of war crimes during the quarter-century of fighting, arguing that it would help reconcile the conflict-riddled nation, law-makers said.

The resolution, passed in the lower house on Wednesday, covers former anti-communist resistance leaders who plunged the country into civil war after years of battling Soviet occupiers.

Lawmaker Sayed Mustafa Kazmi, who backed the resolution, said it was aimed at fostering national unity.

Rights activists have long made the opposite case, calling for faction leaders and warlords to face prosecution for crimes including massacres and torture, especially during the 1992 to 1996 civil war in order to heal the wounds of Afghanistan's traumatic past.

However, several of those accused hold prominent positions in parliament and in the government of US-backed President Hamid Karzai, who has shown little enthusiasm for trying to bring them to justice.

The resolution called for "respect and honoring those who have participated in the holy war and resistance." Taliban and other militants who have laid down their weapons and joined the government should also be pardoned, it said.

The resolution criticized a recent report from Human Rights Watch calling for officials, including Vice President Karim Khalili and Army Chief of Staff Abdul Rashid Dostum, to face trial.

Human Rights Watch also listed Energy Minister Ismail Khan, parliamentarians Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Mohammed Qasim Fahim and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani as among the "worst perpetrators."

Others who should also be brought to trial include Taliban leader Mullah Omar and fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the rights group said.

In December, Karzai launched a plan to help Kabul come to terms with decades of human rights violations by documenting past abuses. UN officials said the plan called for people who committed the crimes to be held accountable, but the government has yet to spell out what that might mean.

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