(London) – The United Kingdom military’s Chief of the General Staff, General Peter Wall, should use an upcoming visit to call on the Nepalese Army to cooperate with investigations into crimes alleged to have been committed by its forces during the country’s decade-long armed conflict. General Wall is due to visit Nepal from November 16-20, 2012.
The UK provides significant military assistance to Nepal and has made attention to human rights and the rule of law priorities in its training and bilateral support to the country. However, not one member of the Nepali security forces suspected of wartime abuses has faced trial, and instead several have been promoted, some to positions where they can directly interfere in criminal investigations.
At least 13,000 people died in the armed conflict between Maoist combatants and government forces which ended with a peace agreement in 2006.
“Nepal’s army makes a mockery of international human rights laws and promises made to the country’s international supporters when it rewards suspected war criminals instead of investigating them,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “General Wall should be prepared to speak out about this impunity and press the Nepal army to reverse promotions of alleged rights abusers.”
Human Rights Watch sent a letter to General Wall in November outlining concerns ahead of the military leader’s visit. In particular, Human Rights Watch urged the UK army chief to press Nepal’s chief of army staff, General Gaurav SJB Rana, to stop shielding and rewarding alleged perpetrators of serious abuses.
In October, the Nepali cabinet approved the army’s recommendation for the promotion of Col. Raju Basnet to the rank of brigadier general despite credible evidence of systematic enforced disappearances and torture at Bhairabnath Battalion headquarters in Kathmandu under his command in 2003. On the basis of this evidence, in 2007 Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered an independent investigation of these human rights violations. That order includes investigations into allegations that Basnet personally committed acts of torture. However, the Nepali army has blocked any attempt by the police to conduct investigations into his record. Currently, Basnet’s promotion has been stayed by Nepal’s Supreme Court, but Nepal’s army has a long history of ignoring court orders.
Human Rights Watch has previously drawn the UK’s attention to the Nepal Army’s disregard of human rights. Ahead of former Nepali army chief Gen. Chhatrama Gurung’s visit to the UK in October 2010, Human Rights Watch had called on the UK government to press General Gurung to surrender to the police Maj. Niranjan Basnet, charged with the 2004 torture and murder of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar, to ensure that he is held accountable through civilian criminal proceedings. However, the army continues to stonewall any attempts by the police to investigate Major Basnet and others implicated in Maina’s death.
The UK has been supportive of calls for accountability in Nepal. In January 2011, British Ambassador to Nepal John Tucknotttold Nepal’s civil society and media that the UKwill continue to work with them and international partners to “try to ensure that no-one is above the law and those alleged perpetrators of past atrocities in Nepal are brought to account.”
In November 2012, the UK reportedly denied a visa to Nepal’s Inspector General of Police, Kuber Singh Rana, based on credible human rights allegations against him.
Rana had been promoted to the rank of Nepal’s Inspector General of Police in September from his position of Additional Inspector General of Police, although there is an ongoing criminal investigation against him ordered by the Supreme Court in February 2009. Rana is implicated in the October 2003 enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings of five students from Dhanusha district in Nepal’s southern plains.
“The UK army leadership needs to use its influence to urge its Nepali military counterparts to respect accountability for human rights abuses, and press for possible prosecutions of security force members suspected of war crimes,” Adams said. “So far, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice before a civilian court for grave human rights violations committed during the country's long and deadly conflict.”