A landmark survey of public opinion among Afghans conducted in 2004 revealed overwhelming support for ending the cycle of impunity. The study included recommendations that became the foundation for the government’s Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation, and Justice. After nearly a year’s delay, the plan was adopted by the cabinet in December 2005. It was formally launched on December 10, 2006. Although little of the plan has been implemented, one of the steps the plan called for was increased documentation to establish a solid foundation of knowledge about the legacy of war crimes in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Documentation Project, launched by the War Crimes Research Office (WCRO) and the Pence Law Library in collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in 2008, was a direct response to the absence of a central repository of publicly accessible and searchable information about atrocities carried out in Afghanistan since 1978. Efforts at digitizing documentation of serious war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by parties to the conflicts in Afghanistan from 1978 to 2001 were initiated by the Afghanistan Justice Project (AJP), which received funding to convert its documents into a database using the Martus Human Rights Bulletin System (Benetech) software.
In 2008, the WCRO and the Pence Law Library teamed with the USIP to: 1) work with Benetech to create and customize a database that would include all publicly available reports and documents – as well as some unpublished material – relating to atrocities committed in Afghanistan from 1978 to the present and to train research assistants on how to input, code and manage data in the database; 2) gather additional documentation from other sources on atrocities committed in Afghanistan; 3) begin the entry and coding of this data into the database; and 4) begin exploring ways to make the database publicly accessible via the internet. In 2012, the WCRO and Pence Law Library engaged Octalsoft to design a website which would host the database and make it publicly accessible. Data entry continues today, as a staff of current and former Washington College of Law (WCL) students read through, categorize and enter data from human rights reports into the new web-based database.