8 October 2012 With the release of a landmark report on breaches of international law committed in the ten years before the 2006 peace deal between the Nepali Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the United Nations human rights chief today highlighted her concern over the failure to create promised transitional justice mechanisms to address past human rights violations.
In the introduction to the ‘Nepal Conflict Report,’ released today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, notes that, in signing the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the two sides had committed to “establishing the truth about the conduct of the conflict and ensuring that the victims… receive both justice and reparations.”
Six years later, the steps to deliver justice in the peace accords have still not been established, according to the High Commissioner, “and successive governments have withdrawn cases that were before the courts. Perpetrators of serious violations on both sides have not been held accountable, in some cases have been promoted, and may now even be offered an amnesty.”
Accompanying the 233-page Report’s release is a database of some 30,000 documents – known as the Transitional Justice Reference Archive – which aims to provide Nepali institutions and civil society with the means to kick-start the process of seeking truth, justice, and reconciliation for the crimes committed during the 1996-2006 conflict.
The Archive, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), records “up to 9,000 serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law may have been committed during the decade-long conflict... However, at the time of writing, no one in Nepal has been prosecuted in a civilian court for a serious conflict-related crime.”
In her introduction to the Report, Ms. Pillay states she is offering the report and archive “to the Government and people of Nepal, to assist them in their essential task of building a sustainable foundation for peace.”
“The Report is intended to act as an initial compilation of credible allegations of serious violations of international law,” she notes. “The allegations are presented in the context of relevant laws and evidence, to provide the basis for further investigation and prosecution by a Nepali judicial process.”
According to OHCHR, accountability and impunity issues came into sharp focus last week, when it was revealed that the Government of Nepal had decided to promote Colonel Raju Basnet to the rank of Brigadier General – despite repeated reminders from OHCHR, the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal and others, that a battalion under the command of Colonel Basnet was heavily implicated in the alleged arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance of individuals said to have taken place at the Maharajgunj Barracks in 2003-04.
Similar concerns have been expressed about the recent appointment of Kuber Singh Rana as Inspector General of the Nepal Police. OHCHR notes that he has been accused of serious human rights violations during the conflict.
The Nepal Conflict Report states that the conflict in the Himalayan country left 13,000 people dead, while another 1,300 remain missing. It also notes the death toll may have been higher, with Government figures now citing 17,000 killed.
In documenting the temporal and geographical spread of violations committed by both sides of the conflict, the Report expresses concern at moves by successive governments to withdraw cases of “a political nature” and at recent Government proposals that a planned future Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) be given broad amnesty powers.
“The granting of amnesties for certain crimes, particularly genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, contravenes principles under international law,” the Nepal Conflict Report continues. “Not only do amnesties contravene international human rights law by upholding impunity, they also weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace.”
The Report focuses on five particular categories of violations – unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence – and gives details of 41 specific emblematic cases drawn from the database. It suggests that several such cases might amount to war crimes.
“Unlawful killings,” it states, “occurred throughout the conflict in multiple contexts: for example, during Maoist attacks on Security Force posts and bases, Government buildings, national banks and public service installations; in chance encounters and during ambushes.”
It adds, “Other examples were recorded during search operations by the Security Forces made in response to earlier Maoist attacks, and in the way that the local People’s Liberation Army [the military wing of the Maoists] and political cadres abducted, abused, tortured and killed suspected spies and informants.”
“Unlawful killings were also perpetrated against enemy combatants and civilians who were in detention or otherwise under the control of the adversary, for example, in execution-style killings,” the Report continues, adding that one of the most compelling cases occurred at Doramba in central Nepal, where 17 Maoists and two civilians were allegedly taken by the Royal Nepal Army, marched to a hillside, lined up and summarily executed.
Much of the documentation in the Transitional Justice Reference Archive was collected in the course of work carried out in Nepal by OHCHR, which operated a field office in the country from 2005 to 2012, under a mandate to observe human rights under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Government of Nepal did not renew OHCHR’s mandate in December 2011 and asked the UN agency to wrap up its operations there. “Accountability therefore remains a matter of fundamental importance to Nepal as it deals with its legacy of conflict,” the agency adds.
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