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October 1, 2020

Towards the future

Opinion

October 1, 2020

The release of thousands of Taliban fighters after the armed group concluded an agreement with the US on February 29 this year has been justified as necessary to jump-start peace negotiations. However, the odds are against any permanent peace in the country.

The Taliban will not give up violence because it knows that it is only through violent means that it can have any political power. Even with its enormous corruption scandals and its own track record of violence against civilians, the government in Kabul is still preferred by 92 percent of Afghans, according to a 2015 poll. Any impunity the Taliban enjoys will also motivate other groups to continue committing crimes against the Afghan people.

Because of this, calls are growing for the leaders of the Taliban to be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Nevertheless, Taliban leaders are unlikely to face the court soon. Not only the Afghan government and its international backers would be happy to give the members of the group amnesty should they agree to make peace, the US itself is not willing to allow the ICC to investigate the crimes its troops allegedly committed in the country.

Moreover, an ICC investigation at this critical junction risks undermining the ongoing Doha peace talks, as it may discourage the Taliban from agreeing to make peace. But there are ways to achieve some transitional justice without insisting on an ICC investigation.

The war crimes committed in Afghanistan in the last four decades by all parties can and should be officially documented. This would put an end to widespread attempts to whitewash history and force the perpetrators of these crimes to face some accountability. Following the documentation of these crimes, all political parties, including the communists, the mujahideen factions and the Taliban, should officially apologise to the people of Afghanistan in general and the victims of violence in particular, to officially acknowledge and atone for their past crimes.

A public apology by leaders involved in war crimes has a precedent. During his 2013 election campaign, President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate, Abdul Rashid Dostum, issued an apology for being a part of the 1990s civil wars. Dostum’s apology and pledge to never repeat his past mistakes was welcomed by many Afghans.

The people of Afghanistan are once again being asked to choose between justice and security. While an acknowledgement of war crimes and a promise by perpetrators to not repeat them would not heal the victims of these crimes, it can be an important step towards healing Afghanistan. If these steps are backed by a commitment by the international community to prevent further human rights violations in the country, Afghanistan can finally leave its painful past behind and turn its face towards the future.

Excerpted from: ‘Clemency for the Taliban will not lead to peace in Afghanistan’

Aljazeera.com