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Revitalise transitional justice system - UN human rights commissioner
21. November 2007, 12:07

(IRIN) - The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the international community involved in Afghanistan must recommit to the Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice (APPRJ) - known as transitional justice - which is expected to address crimes committed in the past three decades in the war-torn country, said the UN high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour.

At the end of her week-long visit to Afghanistan, Arbour told IRIN it was time to renew the already missed deadlines for APPRJ targets, set two years ago.

“It is unthinkable to expect a full implementation of this whole document [transitional justice] within three years. It should be recommitted and renewed,” Arbour said.

Backed by the UN and several other international actors, the government and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) set an ambitious three-year agenda for the implementation of transitional justice in late 2005.

The APPRJ calls for the documentation of past crimes, the identification of alleged criminals, compensation to victim families, remembrance of all victims and prosecution of human rights violators.

Almost two years later, however, the AIHRC says the transitional justice project has been a “complete failure” due to various problems - mainly lack of political commitment and support.

Reiterating the AIHRC’s concerns, Arbour said: “I am very disappointed at the lack of progress in implementing the commitments made by the government and supported by the international community under the APPRJ.”

Need to broaden national debate about transitional justice

Whilst the UN and the AIHRC confirm there has been a lack of progress in all aspects of APPRJ, Arbour criticised concentration only on the prosecution of alleged criminals “some of whom continue to hold high positions”.

“Transitional justice is a multi-faceted process, which focuses on the needs of the victims - for truth, for compensation, for rehabilitation - as well as on the punishment of the perpetrator,” Arbour told journalists in Kabul on 20 November.

Afghanistan should re-energise and broaden its national debate about transitional justice, she added.

The UN top human rights official, meanwhile, called on the world body and the wider international community to provide better support and assistance to the Afghan government in the implementation of transitional justice.

“There is a sense that there is not a strong commitment very much from the international community and other actors to follow the implementation of transitional justice,” she said.

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