October 15th, 2010

Truth Seeking and the Role of Forensic Science: Conference in Kabul, October 12-14, 2010

Participants in the conference organized by PHR’s International Forensic Program came from many different provinces in Afghanistan. Approximately 100 persons representing civil society, governmental, and other local and regional authorities attended.

A Mullah from Kandahar discusses the question of the opening of graves with the Vice President of the Supreme Court. While the Judge points out that Sharia law precisely allows the opening of the graves when it is to bring peace and to help family members, the Mullah is strongly opposed. Photo: Hakim Muzaher

(See pdfs of the agenda and participant bios in English and Dari, linked at the end of this post.)

The findings and recommendations of the workshops will be published in Dari and English, and will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Culture and Information, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghan civil society, and international development partners.

As Stefan Schmitt, Director of the International Forensic Program, explained during his opening remarks to the conference:

Afghanistan is a nation traumatized by violence. The truth of what has happened to the people of Afghanistan often remains hidden. Revealing the truth is essential to stopping the endless cycle of violence and addressing the pain each and every Afghan suffers. In many other countries engulfed in histories of violence and oppression — Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Yugoslavia, and South Africa, to name a few — we have seen that uncovering the painful past and facing it honestly as a community is the only way to provide a hopeful future, after the time of violence.

Every family has the right to know what happened to their loved ones. It is the duty of every government to work towards this. Not only is it the ethical responsibility of those who represent the people, but it is rooted in international law.

We are here today, as forensic scientists, human rights advocates, representatives of the Afghan legal system, and the Afghan law enforcement community, to identify the challenges and possible ways to negotiate a way forward to a more peaceful society. Each one of us has chosen a professional path in documenting truth, and the fact that we are seated here together is in and of itself a recognition that we need to work together.

Agenda - English (169)
Agenda - Dari (157)

“This is an important issue in our country. We need to have a dialogue and understanding. If we don’t solve the problems we know to exist and we put them aside, our wounds will never heal.”
Dr. Sima Simar. Photo: Hakim Muzaher