(Kathmandu) – Five years after the end of Nepal’s civil war, victims are still waiting for justice, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said in a joint report released today. Alleged perpetrators have been appointed to senior government positions and sent abroad on United Nations peacekeeping missions without ever facing an independent and effective criminal investigation.
The families of those killed or disappeared have fought hard to obtain justice, but not a single perpetrator has been successfully prosecuted for serious abuses in a civilian court. There is little sign of serious investigation by the police or compliance with court orders directing the authorities to investigate. Leaders of political parties have publicly discussed withdrawing cases relating to the time of the armed conflict that are currently pending before the courts and handing out pardons and amnesties to members of the army and their Maoist opponents.
“Giving amnesties to those responsible for serious abuses would only add insult to injury to victims of terrible crimes,” said Tejshree Thapa, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “With the formation of a new government, now is the time to show Nepalis that this is truly a new era in which the political will exists to hold abusers accountable.”
The 49-page report, “Adding Insult to Injury: Continued Impunity for Wartime Abuses” calls for the government to stand by its public commitments and international treaty obligations to conduct credible investigations and prosecute those responsible for abuses. The report follows three previous joint reports by Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum on impunity in Nepal and provides a detailed look at six emblematic cases of killings, disappearances, and torture. A separate appendix provides an update on the lack of progress in 62 wartime cases pending before the courts.
“Accountability for crimes is a precondition for improved governance, justice and the rule of law,” said Mandira Sharma, director of Advocacy Forum. “If Nepali authorities continue to collude and evade the obligation to prosecute wartime abuses, sustainable reconciliation will remain a distant dream.”
Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said that the police face intense pressure from senior government officials, political parties, and the Nepal army to obstruct and delay justice. In spite of all public rhetoric, there is a clear lack of political will to actually bring perpetrators to justice for violations. In the absence of a robust legal system that would force compliance, perpetrators – notably army officials – ignore supreme court rulings and evade prosecution on the grounds that crimes committed during the conflict are not admissible in civilian courts and belong instead under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Without legal reform that would permit effective criminal investigations into past violations and progress in establishing transitional justice mechanisms promised in the peace agreement, perpetrators of human rights violations continue to enjoy impunity.
Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum called on the government of Nepal to:
- Make a clear and public commitment not to offer amnesties or pardons for serious human rights abuses;
- Vigorously investigate and prosecute all people responsible for wartime abuses, such as disappearances and killings, including members of the security forces and members of political parties;
- Set up a special investigation unit, under the oversight of the Attorney General’s Office, to investigate cases implicating the Nepal Army;
- Create an independent oversight body for the Nepal Police;
- Make non-compliance with court orders a serious offence;
- Ensure that an effective vetting system is in place for any members of the security forces who are proposed for promotion, overseas UN peacekeeping duties, or specialized training abroad; and
- Establish the long promised commission of inquiry into disappearances and truth and reconciliation commission in line with international standards.
The report also called on the UN human rights office, donors, and other influential international actors to press Nepal to follow through on commitments it made to address impunity at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in January 2011.
“Only a strong stand against politically-motivated withdrawals and amnesties as well as immediate action to guarantee accountability can ensure lasting security and restore people’s faith in the state and its law-enforcement agencies,” Sharma said. “As Nepal enters a new phase in its history, it is critical that the dreams and aspirations of those who struggle for justice are honored.”