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Official Urges Afghanistan To Confront Its Past

29 January 2005 -- Afghanistan's top human rights official today urged the country to confront the horrors of its past, calling for the prosecution of war crimes dating back more than 20 years and a purge of rights abusers from public office.

In a statement, Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said it is impossible to achieve peace without justice.

Samar is due to present a new human rights report to Afghan President Hamid Karzai later today, along with visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.

The report calls on the government to meet what it calls ordinary Afghans' "desire for justice."

The commission says it used questionnaires and focus groups to contact thousands of Afghans last year. More than two-thirds said they themselves had suffered crimes against humanity or war crimes.