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Transitional Justice Workshop in Kabul: Afghan government has not heard victims’ voices

 

Hadi Marifat, executive director of Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) discussed the importance of inclusion of the victims of conflict in any Transitional Justice (TJ) effort during a one-day Transitional Justice Workshop in Kabul which took place at AHRDO office on June 14, 2016.

He maintained that it is vital for a peaceful Afghanistan to hear the voices of war victims who have suffered the most from the protracted war and are still remaining in the margins. “To lead a success reconciliation, the Afghan government should hear the concerns and demands of Afghan victims”, said Marifat.

He also added that “Afghanistan’s top-to-bottom approach to Transitional Justice made it a government and elite oriented process from the beginning, which consequently, led to its failure due to absence of victims’ perspectives.”

During the workshop, participants discussed Transitional Justice efforts in Afghanistan in the last one and half decade as well as the prospect of access to justice for the victims of prolonged war and the vicious cycle of violence in Afghanistan.

Ashraf Bakhtiyari, lecturer and the executive director of Afghanistan Forensic Science Organization, discussed the failures of Afghan government in the Transitional Justice process in Afghanistan in the last one and half decade. He noted that the endorsement of Amnesty Law by the Afghan parliament in 2007 was the most severe blow to transitional justice efforts in Afghanistan.

Despite many barriers to access to justice in Afghanistan, Ehsan Qanee, legal researcher at Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), pointing to the experiences of other countries, which suffered from conflict and experienced widespread human rights violations under tyrant regimes, maintained that victims can make the government accountable by consistent push for their demands. He also added that victims can play a significant role in ending the conflict through raising awareness about the consequences of war and public abhorrence of conflict by sharing their stories and participating in public debates.

This workshop was a complementary component of the Scars of War: Images of the Afghan Anatomy project and provided Afghanistan’s victims of war, members of civil society and university students with valuable information regarding some of the basic elements of Transitional Justice, a concept still largely unknown among the Afghan citizens. More concretely, the workshop facilitated by AHRDO focused on TJ’s key elements such as accountability, truth-seeking, justice, and reconciliation. In addition, in this workshop AHRDO also provided participants with some background information on the failed TJ process in Afghanistan including the Afghan government TJ Action Plan launched in 2006 and the Amnesty Law passed by the Afghan parliament in 2007. Additionally, examples from other contexts (South Africa, Cambodia, Guatemala etc.) were presented and discussed during the workshop.
Kandahar and Kunduz provinces, which both have witnessed the rise of conflict that has left heavy civilian losses in recent years, will be covered in the second stage of the project implementation.

The key objectives of Scars of War: Images of the Afghan Anatomy is to provide a safe public space for war victims to share and exhibit their images and stories of human rights violations; to enhance the public understanding of the harmful impacts of four decades of war on Afghan civilians; and contribute the formation of a culture of accountability, public consciousness and public acknowledgment of the suffering of war victims; and to facilitate the formation of a pacifist bottom-up discourse that inherently discourages warfare as a mode of access to power and wealth and encourages peaceful interaction and coexistence in Afghan society.