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Rights Groups Renew Condemnation Of Afghan Amnesty Bill

Many former Taliban fighters have renounced violence
Many former Taliban fighters have renounced violence
Rights groups have condemned an Afghan amnesty bill that would allow suspected war criminals who pledge to work with the government to avoid prosecution.

The legislation, called the "National Stability and Reconciliation Law," was approved by the Afghan Parliament in 2007 but has yet to be signed into law by President Hamid Karzai.

The renewed criticism comes amid efforts by the Afghan government to achieve reconciliation with moderate Taliban members.

An Amnesty International spokesperson, Maya Pastakia, called the proposed legislation an "impunity bill."

Pastakia told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that "peace without justice or human rights is no real peace at all and could ultimately lead to further instability."

"The record for the past eight years has been crystal clear. Attempts to accommodate human rights abusers have only led to a demise in the security situation and an erosion of the government's legitimacy," Pastakia said.

Nadir Nadiri of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said the bill would not only provide amnesty for past crimes, but future crimes as well, and would "promote impunity."

Law professor Robert Turner of the University of Virginia, however, said the situation is more nuanced. "My concern about the Amnesty [International's] condemnation of the bill] is that it sounds like they are saying that there is nothing on the other side: on the one side is justice and on the other side is nothing," Turner said.

"And the answer is no -- on the other side is stopping a war or at least getting a lot of people from the other side out of the war so you can then deal with those who refuse to take part in the amnesty."

Rights activist Nadiri maintained that an amnesty was not practical. He said the Taliban insurgency has gained strength in part because of disappointment among some Afghans about their inability to gain redress for past crimes.