No Peace without Justice

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Entitled, “Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan, Russia, and Iran in Fueling the Civil War”, the two-year study exposed the fact that perhaps the Taliban  is not completely accountable for the downfall of the country.  Notwithstanding the Taliban’s faults as a fundamentalist regime turned geopolitical, only after one queries the sources of the arms used by the Taliban can one begin to be aware of the other parties involved in this gross violation of human rights.

Instead of focusing on Afghanistan, let’s discuss why it is imperative to have a solid understanding of the crisis of impunity.  What are the consequences?  Why does impunity exist?  How can impunity be abolished so that the perpetrators are justly punished?  Impunity, which is exemption from punishment, appears rampant across underprivileged and privileged nations.  A case which has led to heightened awareness by Amnesty International include high army officials of El Salvador, where the former head of the Salvadoran National Guard, Carlos Vides, and the former minister of defense, Jose Guillermo Garcia, are being sued by the families of four American churchwomen who were brutally murdered in the early nineties.  In court, the two officers claimed ignorance to the witness-observed torture chamber, located inside the guard’s headquarters, and currently reside in Florida (Palm Beach Post, 10/20/2000).  The consequences of the US not having a sub-department of investigation within the department of Immigration and Natural Services render officials of countries like El Salvador free from serving a punishment for their atrocious crimes.  The two generals were cleared by the jury of any responsibility in connection with the murder of the four churchwomen.

Impunity becomes a problem when the United States gets involved.  Impunity is a problem when Latin soldiers are trained in the School of the Americas in Georgia, and then return to their respective countries to perpetrate a civil war via brutal and senseless killings with their newfound military education. Impunity is a problem as soon as these officials lay foot on American soil.  Impunity becomes yet a bigger problem because the United States is one of many countries which have not SIGNED the Rome Statute ratification of the International Criminal Court.  The court, which will have the power to punish both internationally and non-internationally committed war crimes, including massive tortures, rampant killings, and other gross human rights violations, will function as an alternative to each country’s national court, when unwilling to prosecute perpetrators of crime (www.amnesty.org).

Put El Salvador aside for now, this push for anti-impunity needs to be extended to many other countries.  The tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia need to expose the gross atrocities committed by high officials; the Taliban, which has assumed control of the country renaming it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, are but a few more examples. These people should not be allowed political asylum into the United States, nor seek a comfortable retirement in warm weather, as the example of the Salvadoran army officials.

What are the consequences of impunity?  Without justice served by the guilty, citizens have no hope, and no sense of truth.  When a country’s leadership is corrupt, what becomes the new status quo?  What are the norms?  What stops an individual from retaliating against the very government that gets away with murder?

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