Afghans Mull War Crimes Court

After a quarter-century of fighting that left more than a million dead, Afghanistan's government is considering setting up a special war crimes court and a truth-seeking commission to document atrocities, an official said Monday.

The news follows a comprehensive report on human rights abuses, the first since the late 1970s, which blames some of the worst atrocities on several top officials and candidates in coming legislative elections.

Those named include Chief of Army Staff Abdul Rashid Dostum and Second Vice President Karim Khalili.

Bringing them to justice would be risky for U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai. It could inflame ethnic tensions and alienate powerful regional strongmen whose support the government needs as it struggles to contain an escalating Taliban-led insurgency.

The government is expected to decide in coming weeks on a proposal to deal with crimes committed during years of warfare — from the 1978 communist coup through the Soviet occupation, the ensuing fighting between warlords, the rise of the repressive Taliban and its subsequent U.S.-led overthrow in 2001 — said Ahmad Nader Nadery, a commissioner with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The plan, drawn up by the state-sponsored commission and U.N. human rights officials, calls for an immediate "vetting process" to remove officials from government if there is war crime evidence against them, Nadery said.

Afghanistan's justice system isn't thought to be strong enough now to prosecute those accused of atrocities, and the vetting is a stopgap until the courts can be reformed.