Top UN human rights official in Afghanistan calls for repeal of amnesty law

25 March 2010

The United Nations human rights office in Afghanistan today called for the repeal of a controversial amnesty law in the Asian country, saying that it green-lights impunity for serious crimes and continued rights violations.

“This law relieves Afghan authorities of their obligation to investigate and prosecute, on their own initiative, those allegedly responsible for gross violations of human rights,” Norah Niland, the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists today in Kabul.

“The law is likely to undermine efforts to secure genuine reconciliation, which is of course about bringing together different elements of a fractured society,” Ms. Niland added.

In 2007, Afghanistan’s Parliament approved the Reconciliation and General Amnesty Law, which provides blanket immunity and pardons former members of Afghanistan’s armed factions for actions committed prior to December 2001.

The UN has a global position that blanket amnesties are troubling, Ms. Niland said, because they prevent a country from dealing with the past and moving out of a crisis.

Asked if she supported repealing the law, Ms. Niland said: “The answer is the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Afghan civil society and human rights NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in and outside of the country have asked that the law be repealed.”

Ms. Niland also criticized the Shi’a personal status law – parts of which appear to sanction rape within the marriage – saying it “legitimized discriminatory practices against women.”

Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, met today with representatives from Hezb-e-Islami, a political party in Afghanistan.

The meeting was held in consultation with President Hamid Karzai and in accordance with the expanded mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which gives the operation a wider supporting role in preparation for parliamentary elections slated for September.

Mr. de Mistura indicated that the ongoing discussions with Afghan authorities further underscored the importance of Afghan-led dialogue to bring stability to this country.

UNAMA said in a pres release following the visit that the UN, as per its traditional role and expertise, will always be available to assist Afghans to find proper avenues for pursuing constructive political dialogue.


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