Human Rights and Civil Society in Afghanistan

The Security for a New Century Study Group was honored to host Mr. Ahmad Nader Nadery, commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul, and Mr. Paul van Zyl,
cofounder and executive vice-president of the International Center for
Transitional Justice, for a discussion of human rights and civil
society in Afghanistan.

Mr. Nadery focused his discussion on four interrelated issues facing
Afghanistan in the coming months: elections, good governance, justice,
and security. Stability in the region depends on the security and
credibility of the upcoming presidential election. Security is
important because in the last provincial election, an overwhelming 15
districts were not secure enough to register voters, and credibility
determines participation. No international oversight exists in the
independent election commission, which means that many candidates are
never checked for past illegal activities or human rights abuses. This
lack of vetting produces low confidence in the voting populace. To
combat this problem, more resources could be given to the independent
complaint commission. The underlying concern is that if human rights
issues are not brought to the forefront, conservative politics are
likely to prevail in the upcoming elections, which will lead to more
Taliban encroachment.

Mr. Van Zyl furthered the discussion by addressing the necessity of
human rights commissions in transitional societies. No country
transitions to a sustainable democracy without ousting former leaders
with poor human rights records. This process, however, is delicate and
must be balanced. Excluding these individuals too abruptly from the
system will cause them to turn on democracy and retake power, but
bringing them right into the governing fold alienates the population.
Using the treatment of Pinochet as an example, it can be useful to give
the former leader a largely ceremonial position and then gradually
marginalize them and ease them out of power. If this kind of system can
be put into place in Afghanistan, it will help immensely as they
transition to good governance with justice and credibility.

“Security for a New Century” is a bipartisan study group for
Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy
professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security
environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy
venue. Please call (202) 223-5956 for more information.

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