1st Edition

Transitional Justice and Socio-Economic Harm Land Grabbing in Afghanistan

By Huma Saeed Copyright 2023
    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    Maintaining the importance of socio-economic issues in devising transitional justice mechanisms, this book examines the widespread practice of land grabbing in Afghanistan.

    On 3 September 2003, 100 armed police officers bulldozed around 30 homes in the Sherpur neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan, evicting over 250 people. Historically, the land was part of the property of the Ministry of Defense, of which a zone was allocated to the ministry’s employees who had built homes and had lived there for nearly 30 years. After the demolition, however, the land was distributed among 300 high-ranking government officials, including ministers, deputy ministers, governors and other powerful warlords. Land grabbing in Afghanistan has become a widespread practice across the country. Based on over 50 semi-structured interviews with key informants and group discussions with war victims and local experts in Kabul, the current book examines the relevance of transitional justice discourse and practice in response to this situation. Following a critical criminological concern with social harm, the book maintains that it is not enough to consider a country’s political history of violent conflict and the violation of civil and political rights alone. Rather, to decide on appropriate transitional justice mechanisms, it is crucial to consider a country’s socio-economic background, and above all the socio-economic harm inflicted on people during periods of violent conflict.

    This original and detailed account of the socio-economic challenges faced by transitional justice mechanisms will be of interest to those studying and working in this area in law, politics, development studies and criminology.

    Preface and acknowledgments

    Introduction: Setting the scene

    A land-grabbing case in the Sherpur neighborhood of Kabul

    Relevance of Sherpur for the current study

    Sherpur and beyond

    Research aim

    Introduction to the conceptual framework

    Critical criminology

    Transitional justice

    Introduction to the empirical component


    Desk research


    Data analysis

    Ethical considerations

    Research limitations and challenges


    Data saturation

    Validity and reliability

    Researcher’s positionality

    Emotional challenges of the data analysis

    Book structure


    1 Socio-economic harm in violent conflicts, transitional justice and critical criminology

    Socio-economic harm in times of violent conflicts

    Socio-economic harm, transitional justice and criminology

    Transitional justice and socio-economic harm

    Transitional justice and development

    Transitional justice and structural inequality: A move towards transformative justice

    Critical criminology and a harm-based approach to crime

    Critical criminology

    An understanding of crime

    Harm-based approach to crime

    State crime

    Approaches to state crime

    State crimes as serious human rights violations

    Approaches to economic crime in criminology



    2 Housing, Land and Property (HLP) loss in violent conflict

    The right to adequate housing in the human rights regime

    HLP rights violation in violent conflicts and peace settlements

    Land grabbing and transitional justice

    Land dispute, urbanization and criminology



    3 Violent conflict, socio-economic harm and transitional justice in Afghanistan

    Conflict background

    The Bonn Agreement

    Transitional justice in Afghanistan

    “A Call for Justice”

    The Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice

    Bottom-up approach to transitional justice

    The impact of violent conflict on the socio-economic fabric of the Afghan society

    Market economy and liberal peacebuilding in Afghanistan



    4 Housing, Land and Property rights in Afghanistan

    Background and legal framework for HLP rights in Afghanistan

    HLP rights, women and the marginalized population

    Land titling and registration

    Land dispute mechanisms in Afghanistan

    Conflict impact on HLP rights in Afghanistan

    The returnee IDPs’ perception on HLP harm

    The returnees’ perception on HLP harm

    Perceptions of victims of land grabbing



    5 Land grabbing in Afghanistan

    General background and definition of land grabbing in Afghanistan

    Definition of land grabbing in Afghanistan

    Land grabbing in the Afghan law

    Tackling land grabbing in practice

    The Strategic Plan to combat land grabbing

    Other measures by the government to tackle land grabbing



    6 Land grabbing in Afghanistan, economic-state crime and transitional justice

    Land grabbing as economic crime

    The actor

    The motive behind the act

    The contextual factors and means employed

    The consequences and harm

    Land grabbing as state crime

    State crimes of commission

    State crimes of negligence

    State crime by omission

    Land grabbing as economic-state crime

    Transitional justice and land grabbing

    Land grabbing and impunity

    Land grabbing and property restitution/provision to the IDPs and returnees

    Land grabbing as serious human rights violations

    Quality (the degree of gravity)

    Quantity (level of frequency)



    7 Transitional justice and criminology: Bridging the gap

    Through the prism of crime

    The gap between criminology and transitional justice

    Towards bridging the gap by combining fieldwork and an interdisciplinary approach

    Crime as injury and social harm

    State crime victims

    Through the methodological prism




    Main argument and research contribution


    Recommendations for future research


    Appendix A: Questionnaire

    Appendix B: List of interviews



    Huma Saeed is an affiliated senior researcher at the Leuven Institute of Criminology, Belgium, and an independent consultant on transitional justice and human rights.