Legacies of Conflict: Justice, Reconciliation and Ways Forward
Founder(s): Royal Norwegian Embassy, Kabul
“The government doesn’t investigate the abuses and other crimes that are happening in our country now…let alone those that occurred in the past. The government doesn’t listen to the voices of the people and so people don’t have any trust in the government.” – Respondent in Ghazni
New approaches to Afghanistan’s conflict and its potential resolution are being considered. When identifying ways forward, more Afghan voices need to be brought into the discussion—it is not enough to just consult Afghan and international actors who hold positions of power. More understanding is required about what Afghans have suffered, are continuing to experience, and what they really need and want.
AREU’s legacies of conflict research has focused on this goal. It took place in urban and rural areas in the provinces of Ghazni, Kabul and Bamiyan, and was designed to reach people and communities with a range of ethnic backgrounds and wartime experiences, to allow for comparisons across groups and across time.
A peaceful country was desired by all and a negotiated end to the violence was widely seen as necessary but not easy to achieve. For a just and durable settlement to occur and for people to feel “at peace,” it was also widely perceived that the legacies of past and present conflict will need to be addressed. It was found that justice holds a variety of meanings for people, who have experienced conflict in different ways. Justice in Afghanistan is often conflated to mean criminal trials only, but a broader perspective is necessary. These varied histories result in a wide variety of opinions and the research demonstrated that there is no one way to deal with the legacies of wartime violations or those held responsible for them.
However, across all research locations people were experiencing ongoing pain stemming from conflict and commonly expressed a need for closure. While demands for criminal-style justice for wartime violators are strong, people are pragmatic when it comes to ways to deal with the past and were willing to discuss other options. Overall, people commonly expressed a desire for some kind of recognition of the pain and suffering they have experienced, which was often more important than the process used to achieve it.
Case studies for each province as well as a paper identifying patterns of wartime violations are now available and a final report is due toward the end of 2011.