The presidential candidates for the upcoming 2014 elections in war-torn Afghanistan will include military and paramilitary militia commanders, also known as warlords, and other candidates who are accused of serious offenses against their own people, such as civil rights abuses, brutal war crimes, and other crimes against humanity, according to an international human rights group in a report released on Wednesday.
"The Afghan government’s failure to prosecute or disqualify those responsible for grave crimes underscores the importance of accountability in Afghanistan’s future," said the report's writers.
The nonpartisan Human Rights Watch is urging the current Afghan government to repeal the recently passed election laws that prevent their country's Electoral Complaints Commission from removing the names from voting ballots of presidential and vice presidential candidates responsible for past atrocities, in essence, disqualifying potential despots from the election process.
“Had the Afghan government in the last decade properly addressed crimes of the past, several current candidates would now be disqualified from seeking office -- or would even be serving time,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director. “Foreign donors [such as the United States] should press the Afghan government to ensure future elections are not being contested by serious rights abusers.”
Afghanistan’s constitution prohibits politicians who were “convicted of crimes against humanity, a criminal act or deprivation of civil rights by a court” from running for elected office.
But, according to Human Rights Watch, the President Karzai's failure since 2002 demand criminal accountability for those responsible for war crimes and politically-motivated violence has rendered the constitutional provision ineffective.
HRW alleges that there were no investigations or prosecutions for past atrocities and that no commanders have been convicted for any of the massive abuses that have taken place in Afghanistan during the past 35 years of war, including it's long-fought war against the Soviet Union invaders.
In 2004, the Karzai government's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) conducted a study based on interviews and focus groups with thousands of Afghans throughout the newly freed country as a result of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the radical Islamist Taliban's quasi-government. The study focused on the Afghan people's views of past war crimes and human rights abuses, and what they believe the new government should do to address those criminal acts.
According to Human Rights Watch, the findings of the study revealed that:
"[T]he vast majority of Afghans wanted the crimes of the past to be confronted:
94 percent said they considered justice for past crimes to be either “very important” (75.9 percent) or “important” (18.5 percent).
When asked what the effects would be for Afghanistan in bringing war criminals to justice, 76 percent said it would “increase stability and bring security,” and only 7.6 percent said it would “decrease stability and threaten security.”
“For 13 years the Afghan government and its international allies have nurtured commanders implicated in serious crimes, while the leadership blocked efforts to bring justice to the countless victims,” Brad Adams said. “Without a reversal of this approach, the most infamous legacy of the Karzai era will be awarding power to those with blood-stained hands.”
“Afghan warlords and other human rights abusers who have killed, tortured and robbed civilians have no place in government,” Adams said. “A secure and just future for Afghanistan cannot be built by the same people who savaged it in the past.”