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Afghanistan confirms enactment of war crimes pardon law

[JURIST] The Afghanistan Office of the President [official website] openly confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that the government has enacted a law providing a blanket pardon for all war crimes and human rights violations occurring before December 2001. Spokesperson Waheed Omar said that the National Stability and Reconciliation Law [RFE/RL backgrounder] was passed in 2007 by two-thirds of the Parliament [official website], and therefore, under the constitution, did not require the signature of President Hamid Karzai [official profile]. The new law has been heavily criticized by human rights groups, which became aware of the law when it was published in Afghanistan's latest official gazette. In an interview with Reuters [Reuters report], Asia director for Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] Brad Adams called the law an "absolute disgrace" and "a slap in the face to all the Afghans who suffered for years and years of war crimes and warlordism." Adams questioned the validity of the two-year process taken to enact law, which was passed by a parliament made up largely of former members of armed groups, some of whom have been accused of war crimes. Adams has called on the US to pressure Afghanistan to repeal the law stating that "the US needs to decide whether they're with the victims or the perpetrators, and make their views known publicly." US President Barack Obama, who held a teleconference [press release] with Karzai on Monday concerning the "continued strategic partnership" between the US and Afghanistan, has yet to release a statement concerning the amnesty law.

HRW released a statement [JURIST report] last week urging the Afghan government to retract the amnesty law [press release]. HRW claims that the law protects alleged war criminals and human rights abusers, many of whom remain in positions of power within the government. The group says the law will also grant future immunity to people involved in current fighting in Afghanistan if they agree to reconciliation with the government. Supporters of the law note that criminal claims may still be brought by individuals, but HRW disputes this claim saying the court system is "barely functioning in much of the country, corruption is rampant, and there is no witness protection system."

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