Tell Us How This Ends. Transitional Justice and Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan
AAN’s latest thematic report “Tell Us How This Ends: Transitional Justice and Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan” by Patricia Gossman and Sari Kouvo, asks whether, after 35 years of conflict, Afghanistan can move forward without addressing the legacies of its violent past? A timely and relevant question in the context of current efforts to find a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.
In the report, authors Patricia Gossman and Sari Kouvo navigate between polarized views of how to deal with legacies of human rights violation and war crimes after conflicts: human rights arguments that consider transitional justice an essential component of peace processes, and ostensibly realpolitik arguments that see such issues as secondary (even counterproductive) to the effort to create stability. The truth, they argue, lies somewhere in between these two extremes.
“Tell Us How This Ends” includes an overview of war crimes and human rights violations from the Communist putsch in 1978 to the ongoing-armed conflict today. It shows that the international intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, that toppled the Taliban regime, seemed to offer the chance to deal with and overcome the past. Instead, the decade that followed replicated the patterns of abuse already in place. Politics of accommodation and priority for short-term stability weakened the state-building process, as well as the prospects for long-lasting peace.
The report emphasizes that; while justice may not be politically feasible in the short term, seeking the truth about what happened is still vitally important. The authors document the modest progress that has been made in the past decade, including the ‘A Call for Justice’ report (2005) and a, largely unimplemented, government Action Plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation. Setbacks include the adoption of an amnesty law that provides amnesty for all those involved in the past decades of war in Afghanistan, and the failure to identify limits for amnesty in the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP).
The report also explores why in recent years two major documentations of war crimes in Afghanistan have failed to see the light of day. The failure to publish them shows the extent to which Afghanistan’s conflict history remains contested. The authors argue, however, that the lack of truth feed into myths and conflicting narratives about the conflict – its victims, villains and heroes. It is only by acknowledging the truth that the cycle of abuse can be broken. This is important both to strengthen the integrity of Afghan institutions, but also in order to acknowledge the suffering of victims – for reconciliation.