[JURIST] The Afghan government should retract a law granting amnesty [press release] for war crimes and human rights abuses committed prior to December 2001, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Wednesday. The National Stability and Reconciliation Law was originally passed by the Afghan Parliament [official website] in 2007, but did not take effect until it was recently published in the official gazette. 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." Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official profile; JURIST news archive] had previously indicated he would not sign [Reuters report] the act into law.
In 2007, Karzai signed a bill [JURIST report] granting amnesty to groups that allegedly committed war crimes. The 2007 resolution barred the state from independently prosecuting individuals for war crimes absent accusation from an alleged victim. A previous version of the same bill drew popular support [JURIST reports], but Karzai refused to sign the bill in the original form.