KABUL, Feb 1: Afghanistan’s parliament has granted immunity to all Afghans involved in the country’s 25 years of conflict, lawmakers said on Thursday.

The decision passed on Wednesday in the lower house, Wolesi Jirga, would also cover fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who now heads his own militant group, said critics and supporters of the move.

Rights groups have strongly pressed the government to punish those guilty of abuses, including some members of parliament and senior government officials, saying justice was vital for peace.

But the national assembly said its motion would help reconciliation in a nation shattered by years of war and civil strife that have left almost no family untouched by tragedy.

“In order to bring reconciliation among various strata in the society, all those political and belligerent sides who were involved one way or the other during the two-decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially,” the motion passed by the assembly says.

The United Nations in Kabul objected immediately.

“For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled,” it said in a statement.

“No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves.”

The Wolesi Jirga elected in late 2005 includes former senior communist officials, ex-Mujahideen (holy warrior) leaders who fought the Soviets and some former Taliban.

Dozens are accused of human rights abuses.

Several lawmakers said President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, knew of the assembly’s move in advance.

“In a way, this provides immunity for all,” Shukria Barakzai, a leading woman activist MP, told Reuters.

She was among a small group of delegates who left the session in protest.

Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former Mujahideen leader who was among the key legislators behind the amnesty, said it was in line with Karzai's efforts to push national reconciliation.

He also believed the immunity would cover Omar and Hekmatyar.

“This is a law and the law will be implemented on all individuals equally,” he told Reuters.

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