Delegates back US jurisdiction over troops
KABUL (PAN): A vast majority of the consultative Loya Jirga on Saturday accorded approval to the controversial clause of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) concerning judicial jurisdiction over US troops staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
With 20 articles of the deal debated on Friday, the 50 jirga committees are to thrash out the remaining six today. The article on legal jurisdiction over foreign soldiers -- being an emotive issue for the Afghans -- was to be decided by the tribal assembly.
Jirga Chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi said the text contained no major controversial point. The US soldiers committing crimes in Afghanistan would be tried under the American military law, he added, explaining there was no question of immunity.
“We have suggested the best way is to prosecute US soldiers under the US law in the presence of Afghans,” said Mujaddedi, a former president and reconciliation commission chairman.
One participant Asadullah Jamali, also the Faryab peace committee head, told Pajhwok Afghan News all contents of the accord were debated in detail and members floated a string of suggestions.
“There were differences over Article 13 (that concerns judicial jurisdiction over international troops). All of us believe the US soldiers involved in criminal offences in Afghanistan should be prosecuted here,” he said.
If their proposals were not accepted, the delegates would not oppose the troops’ trial in the US, he explained, confirming the long-running issue between the two sides had been settled.
Haji Mohammad Omar Ahmadzai, another participant from central Logar province, proposed that victims should be given a chance to watch criminal proceedings against the US soldiers, who were prosecuted for crimes committed in Afghanistan.
Farida Hamidi, a public representative from Nimroz province, said a thumping majority of participants demanded prompt singing of the deal. She said Afghanistan needed the agreement to ensure peace and stability in the country.
Haji Nasim, a representative of refugees in the United Arab Emirates, also backed signing of BSA and America’s legal jurisdiction over its personnel due to Afghanistan’s compulsions.
Although some participants considered the jurisdiction issue against the national interest and Islamic teachings, many others said overall the accord was advantageous to Afghanistan.
Under Article 13, Afghanistan recognises the particular importance of disciplinary control, including judicial and non-judicial measures, by the United States authorities over members of the force and its civilian component.
The US shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in Afghanistan. The US has been authorised to hold trial in such cases, or take other disciplinary action, as appropriate, in the territory of Afghanistan.
When requested, the US will inform Afghanistan of the status of any criminal proceedings regarding offenses allegedly committed in Afghanistan by the members of the force or of the civilian component involving Afghan nationals.
“If so requested, the United States shall also undertake efforts to permit and facilitate the attendance and observation of such proceedings by representatives of Afghanistan,” the second paragraph of the article reads.
In the interests of justice, the Parties shall assist each other in investigation of incidents, including the collection of evidence. In investigating offenses, United States authorities shall take into account any report of investigations by Afghan authorities.
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