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German concern on impunity

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
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German Minister Gundrun Kopp greets Purnimaya Tamang. Suman Adhikari looks on.

When visiting German Parliamentary State Secretary for Development Cooperation, Gundrun Kopp, was planning her fact-finding visit to Nepal, she had thought it would be mainly to oversee her government’s support for basic health and renewable energy in Nepal.

But as she started reading the reports, she was concerned about the state of impunity in the country, human rights violators were walking free, and two bills pending in parliament would have given general amnesty to war crimes by both sides.

“The focus of my trip changed,” Kopp told Nepali Times on Wednesday at the end of her three-day visit, “all our investment in development can be wasted if the lingering truth and justice issues are not addressed. I am convinced you can’t have a bright future without looking at the past.”

To drive the point home, Kopp invited Purnimaya Lama and Suman Adhikari to the head table at her press conference. Purinmaya’s husband Arjun Lama was abducted and murdered in 2005, and the current State Minister for Energy, Surya Man Dong and former Information Minister Agni Sapkota have been charged with involvement in the crime.

Suman Adhikari’s father, Lamjung teacher Muktinath Adhikari, was executed by Maoists in 2002. A complaint has named Devendra Poudel, Sadhuram Ghimire and Dhruba Adhikari as being responsible.

In an emotional appeal, Purnimaya Lama said, “My husband was not involved in the war, his murders instead of being punished are now ministers, we will never agree to the general amnesty for those who committed crimes. We have children, if there is no justice, they can also kill.”

In her meeting with Prime Minister Bhattarai, Kopp raised the issue of general amnesty provisions in the draft of bills to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the need to address the concerns of victims families and the Disappearances Commission. “The prime minister listened intently and took our positive concerns seriously, the message did reach the government,” she said.

Kopp said Germany would be watching progress on the bills “very closely” in the next months, and lack of progress could undermine the outcome of a bilateral aid review meeting scheduled for May. “German aid to Nepal could be affected, depending on actions taken or not taken. We are answerable to our taxpayers,” Kopp said.

She added that the rule of law was also important because Nepal wanted to attract foreign investors, a point she said she raised in a meeting with Finance Minsiter Barsha Man Pun.

Meanwhile, the German government has agreed to provide a grant assistance of 10 million euro to Nepal for the implementation of the ongoing Nepal Health Sector Program II for improvements in the health and nutritional status of the poor and deprived people by improving health care services.

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