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In UN Petition, Afghans Seek Justice For Alleged Hekmatyar Victims

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaking to supporters in the eastern city of Jalalabad in April.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaking to supporters in the eastern city of Jalalabad in April.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says it has received a petition from Afghans seeking justice for alleged victims of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Hekmatyar, one of the main leaders of armed factions in the Afghan civil war in the 1990s, returned to Kabul this month as part of a peace deal with Afghanistan's government granting him immunity.

UNAMA said in a statement that the petition was received on May 25.

The peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and Western rights groups accusing Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e Islami militia of gross human rights violations during the civil war. They also cite deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since the U.S.-led invasion that drove the Taliban from power in 2001.

"Afghan citizens and others who have been victims of atrocities must not be deprived of their right to judicial redress," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.

"The United Nations will continue to support Afghans in their efforts to seek peace, justice, and security," Yamamoto said.

At the same time, "UNAMA has welcomed agreements that contribute to a reduction of violence in Afghanistan toward allowing Afghans to live in peace with each other, and remains encouraged by the progress in the implementation of the agreement between the government of Afghanistan and Hezb-e Islami," the statement said.

Hekmatyar arrived in Kabul on May 4 after more than 20 years in self-imposed exile.

He has been vocal since his return to the Afghan capital. While addressing a ceremony in the Afghan presidential palace on May 4, Hekmatyar rejected allegations that he had committed crimes or grave rights abuses.

“We don’t have a court [system] that can prosecute war criminals,” he said. “Unfortunately, our government is not in a position to make such individuals accountable.”

He added that Afghanistan requires a strong government capable of implementing its decisions. “We will then need an independent court and a just judge. Although I am not in favor of such a court in principle,” he said.

As a firebrand student leader in the 1970s, Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami, an Afghan pan-Islamist party ideologically similar to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jammat-e Islami.

The party became one of the main anti-Soviet mujahedin factions during the 1980s when Hekmatyar received a lion’s share of Western, Arab, and Pakistani assistance to fight against the Red Army and the Afghan communist regime.

Mujahedin infighting began even before the fall of the communist regime in April 1992. In the subsequent years, Hezb-e Islami became one of the most prominent groups in the bloody 1992-1996 civil war that centered on a gruesome struggle for control over Kabul.

All power-sharing arrangements failed. Hekmatyar became a leading protagonist in the internecine struggle that saw his forces fight against and ally with most mujahedin factions and the forces of former communist general and current Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum during the civil war.

Rights watchdogs accuse Hekmatyar of killing civilians by ordering indiscriminate shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s. He is also accused of forced disappearances and keeping illegal detention centers where torture was allegedly common.

In 2003, the U.S. State Department in 2003 labeled Hekmatyar a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

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