Nepali Times
A dangerous precedence



During the early hours of 14 June 2005, six civilians were abducted from a village 150m away from Armed Police Force base in Banbehda area of Kailali district. The victims were taken to a nearby forest, tortured and murdered. Four of the victims, including three women and a child, were family members of APF personnel, the other two were aspiring recruits.

A field investigation by the UN's Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported abuse and lack of respect for human life and dignity by the perpetrators. No group claimed responsibility for the incident, and allegations of CPN (Maoist) involvement was denied by the party in a press statement.

Last week, a visiting OHCHR team provided the government a copy of its conflict mapping report which summarises over 2,000 cases of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law during the decade-long conflict and later. The report has been due at least a year now, and the government has been trying to suppress it. The state refused to extend the OHCHR's mandate beyond June this year.

In a meeting last week, OHCHR made it clear that if the government failed to own the report, it would unilaterally publish it. This has prompted the government to question report's validity and blame OHCHR for overstepping its mandate.

Human rights activist and lawyer Govinda Prasad Sharma 'Bandi' says: "The Nepal government signed a broad agreement with OHCHR in March 2005 allowing it to investigate incidences of human rights abuses and violation of international humanitarian law. There is no ambiguity about the mandate."

Between 2007-2010, the Supreme Court has upheld OHCHR's mandate OHCHR's mandate in Nepal, which the court turned down. There are also international laws and treaties including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN General Assembly resolution 48/141 which provides a global mandate to the UN body to investigate cases of human rights violation in any part of the world.

In spite of acknowledging widespread abuse of human rights during the years of conflict in Article 33 of the interim constitution on the need to implement international treaties and agreements while investigating them, the government is now citing technicalities to avoid addressing the issues.

"All the perpetrors including those from the Nepal Army and the Maoists, as parties to the conflict have aligned themselves against free and fair investigation and are looking to sweep the dirt under the carpet by providing blanket amnesty in serious cases," says rights activist Mandira Sharma of Advocacy Forum.

When the CPA was signed in 2006, the parties had agreed to form an independent commission to investigate into cases of war crimes within six months, but six years on, the commission has not been formed and the government has refused to own the only field report which has systematically compiled the reported cases.

There is an underlying fear that if there is a trail based on the reports, every party in the conflict, whether directly involved in the war or in the government leadership, will be dragged to court and possibly the international tribunal under the principle of command responsibility, an international law instrument that has been used to prosecute many war criminals. This could indict former army chiefs for cases like Bhairab Nath massacre and Doramba killings, or bring Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to trial for the Madi bombing that killed 36 bus passengers in 2005.

Read also:
Truth and memory, RAM KUMAR BHANDARI
The victims of conflict have moved beyond revenge to remembrance, politicians could learn from them

1. Marjolijn Hohberger
Justice is difficult yet necessary. People think too much in the actual culture of indifference we are setting a terrible image for our children.
They sincerely do not know good from bad and so on.
The dead deserve our respect no matter what. The guilty are both sides as we all know. I wonder how many more years.
Or is it the asian way of better to keep everything so silent?

Surely we must overcome hatred and animosity, but history is real. The very opportunistic behaviour of all does not show faith in Democracy.
Civil wars keep happening and have also been brought to trial. If it takes a commision, a foreign court...It is possible to understand what people did in a situation of pressure, but ethics need to be applied for all.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)