GENEVA (8 October 2012) -- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday released a landmark report documenting and analysing serious violations of international law that occurred during the ten-year (1996-2006) conflict in Nepal, along with a database of around 30,000 documents, designed to provide a tool for Nepalese institutions and civil society to kick-start the process of seeking truth, justice, and reconciliation for the crimes committed at that time.
In her introduction to the 233-page Nepal Conflict Report, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the report and the huge accompanying database, known as the Transitional Justice Reference Archive, are “intended to be a helpful contribution to the pressing task of ensuring justice for serious violations committed during the conflict.”
Pillay noted that in 2006, when the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, they committed to “establishing the truth about the conduct of the conflict and ensuring that the victims… receive both justice and reparations.”
“Six years later,” she added, “the transitional justice mechanisms promised in the peace accords have still not been established, and successive governments have withdrawn cases that were before the courts.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.”
According to the report, which contains data illustrating the temporal and geographical spread of the violations committed by both sides during the increasingly brutal ten-year conflict, at least 13,000 people were killed, with a further 1,300 still missing. The report notes that the final death toll is likely to have been higher, with Government figures now citing 17,000 killed.
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 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, such as in the Madi bus bombing. 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 [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 says, 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 (RNA), marched to a hillside, lined up and summarily executed. “The Maoists also killed captives,” the report continues, “for example, three teachers, Muktinath Adhikari, Kedar Ghimire and Arjun Ghimire, were each allegedly executed after abduction in separate incidents in Lamjung District in 2002.”
The archive 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.”
“Accountability therefore remains a matter of fundamental importance to Nepal as it deals with its legacy of conflict.”
The report expresses concern at moves by successive governments to withdraw cases of “a political nature” and at recent Government proposals that the planned future Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] be given broad amnesty powers.
“The Government has moved to empower the TRC to grant amnesties for international crimes and gross violations of international law committed during the conflict,” the report says. “The granting of amnesties for certain crimes, particularly genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, contravene principles under international law. … Not only do amnesties contravene international human rights law by upholding impunity, they also weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace.”
The issues of accountability and impunity 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 the UN Human Rights office, the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal and others that a battalion under the command of Basnet was heavily implicated in the alleged arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance of individuals alleged at the Maharajgunj Barracks in 2003-04. Similar concerns have been expressed about the recent appointment as Inspector General of the Nepal Police of Mr. Kuber Singh Rana, who has also been accused of serious human rights violations during the conflict.
In her foreword, Pillay said the report and the archive provide “a research base on which the transitional justice commissions and courts will be able to build. The Report is intended to act as an initial compilation of credible allegations of serious violations of international law. These 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.”
Pillay said she was 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 Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) maintained a substantial field office in Nepal from 2005 to 2012, which was mandated to observe human rights under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Government of Nepal did not renew OHCHR’s mandate in Nepal in December 2011 and asked the office to wrap up its operations in the country. Much of the documentation in the archive was collected in the course of OHCHR’s work in Nepal.
The Report and its accompanying database are available on the OHCHR website at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/NepalConflictReport.aspx
UN Human Rights Country Page on Nepal: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/NPIndex.aspx
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