This file photo shows Salahuddin Rabbani, the peace envoy of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. - File Photo

KABUL: An international human rights group urged Afghan authorities on Monday to refuse to provide Taliban insurgents with immunity from prosecution in return for peace talks.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed administration had pledged amnesty for the Taliban if they join a Kabul-backed peace scheme.

“Providing immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights abuses violates international law,” HRW said in a statement.

“Future government talks with the Taliban should not hinge upon denying justice to victims of war crimes and other abuses,” said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director. “Afghanistan's civilians should not be forced to choose between justice and peace.”

Citing recent comments by Karzai's peace envoy Salahuddin Rabbani, HRW said the administration had promised immunity to Taliban officials joining peace talks and that their names would be removed from UN sanctions lists.

This month, Rabbani negotiated the release of nine Taliban prisoners held in Pakistani jails in the hope of pushing negotiations forward.

Karzai's government has been desperately trying to broker a peaceful end to the insurgency, which has been led by the Taliban since they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.

The Taliban have publicly rejected Karzai's call for peace, dismissing his government as a puppet of the United States.

The militants also broke off exploratory contacts with the US earlier this year after problems arose over their demand for the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

HRW pointed out that in 2007, the Afghan parliament, dominated by mujahedin leaders who fought a Soviet occupation and then a civil war, granted themselves immunity from prosecution for human rights abuses.

“Afghanistan has a troubling history of providing amnesty for war crimes,” the group said.

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