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The Killid Group
Rift over AIHRC buries war crimes reportWritten by Nasrat Elham
Saturday, 28 January 2012 16:36
President Hamid Karzai has done little or nothing to fill the vacuum in the AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission). Civil society is divided on who should be selected. A critical report on war crimes that is ready for publication is in limbo.
On Dec. 16, the five-year term of three members of the AIHRC (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission) ended. The president did not extend the terms of Ahmad Nader Nadery, Ahmad Fahim Hakim and Maulawi Ghulam Muhammad Gharib. Nadery and Hakim have been part of AIHRC since it was set up. Nadery was spokesman of the AIHRC, and has in the commission focused on transitional justice, as well as on war crimes (civilian casualties) committed as part of the present conflict. For the past several months the AIHRC has been on the verge of publishing a report on war crimes in Afghanistan, generally known as the "mapping report".
There are real fears the report, which has followed up on the documentation done for a UN report on war crimes that was finished in early 2005 but held back under pressure from the Afghan and US governments (but was leaked to the public), may be buried like its previous incarnation. The new report is expected to contain information, and possibly names, about war crimes linked to high-ranking individuals serving in the Karzai administration and close advisers of the president.
Emal Faizi, the president's office spokesman, has denied pressure from the government was delaying the publication of the report. Even the dismissal of commissioners cannot prevent the report from being published, he insisted.
On Dec. 27, roughly 100 members of civil society met the president to plead the AIHRC case. Karzai took the delegates by surprise with his announcement that all nine commissioners would be replaced.
The announcement has widened differences between civil society organisations that are divided in two groups.
Habibullah Rafee, rights activist and head of the Afghan Civil Society Forum, one of the two groups of civil society, was present at the meeting with Karzai. He said the president said he was ready to assess the capability of people nominated by civil society separately or jointly. "The president promised that he was ready to assess the people that you jointly (the two civil society groups) or separately nominate. We will together select them, and we will change all the commissioners and will employ new commissioners."
Karzai told the delegates that his criteria for selecting new commissioners would be people with "real national feeling". They should not have partisan, tribal and personal demands, he added.
Abdul Satar Sadat, a legal expert, said it is the president's responsibility to fill the vacuum in the nine-member AIHRC. The tenure of commissioners is fixed for five years. A fourth commissioner, Hamid Barmaki, died in a suicide attack on January 2011, and no permanent replacement has been found yet.
Fill the vacancies
Members of the Civil Society Coordination Jirga, one of the two broad groups within civil society, have sent the president a list of 31 names of potential commissioners. The Coordination Jirga, which was created before the Bonn 2 civil society conference and is led by Abdul Rahman Hotaky, has appealed to the government to replace all nine commissioners.
Hotaky told Killid in an interview the names were sent two weeks ago. "We have not got any reply from the president's office though we have sent another letter (urging the government to take action)." The Coordination Jirga represents some 270 non-governmental organisations, according to Hotaky.
He said it was imperative the president fill the vacancies in the commission so the AIHRC under its new leadership can start work. "From a legal point of view the terms of all (three) have finished. The extension of their terms is the privilege of the president, which has not taken place. The vacancy should be filled soon," he added.
Work has begun
Siamak Herawi, assistant presidential spokesman, told Killid the selection process has begun. "The list prepared by civil society has reached the president. Some people have been even selected and work on the completion of biographies is going on."
Herawi asserted that qualified people would be selected as commissioners.
Meanwhile the other group, Afghan Civil Society Forum, has decided not to forward any names and instead has demanded the president put off the selection for two months until it proposes a transparent process with which to appoint the commissioners and also propose names for the positions.
Shamsullah Ahmadzai who heads the regional office of ACSF in Kabul, said, "We hope the selection of commissioners fulfils the law governing the AIHRC and the Paris Principles." The Paris Principles are internationally acknowledged rules for national human rights institutions that were adopted by the UN in 1993. Ahmadzai said Article 14 of the AIHRC law stipulates who can qualify as commissioners for the commission.
Ahmadzai could not say if only four new commissioners would be appointed or all the members of the AIHRC would be changed. "The spokesman of the president only said the terms of three commissioners have not been extended," he said.