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Karzai at the U.N.: Past Crimes in Afghanistan Should Be Addressed

(New York) -- The U.N. Security Council should raise the issue of justice for past human rights abuses in Afghanistan in its meeting with Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said today.

"It is impossible to build a stable society when past crimes are ignored," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "We strongly urge the Security Council to work with Mr. Karzai to find a way of developing justice mechanisms, so that past abusers, Taliban or otherwise, are held accountable."

Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to discuss with Karzai how the new mandate for the United Nations mission to Afghanistan, currently being debated, can best address the accountability and justice concerns.

"Our experience in numerous contexts, including Sierra Leone, Haiti, and the Balkans, is that arrangements that allow past perpetrators to escape accountability often lead to new instability and more violence. Those who have committed atrocities, and gotten away with it, are likely to repeat their behavior."

Human Rights Watch has urged the Security Council to ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights - including monitoring, investigations, consultations with Afghan officials regarding legal reform, and assistance in reconstruction of judicial institutions - are a central part of the mission.

The group noted that the United Nations has already adopted the doctrine that addressing past crimes is a vital part of peace building. General Assembly Resolution of December 14, 2001, on Afghanistan, states that "the accountability of perpetrators of grave human rights violations is a key factor in ensuring reconciliation and stability," a position that has been embraced by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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