(New York) – The authorities in Nepal need to ensure that the new investigation into the murder of Krishna Prasad Adhikari, allegedly killed by the Maoists in 2004, proceeds without political interference, Human Rights Watch said today. Investigations and prosecutions for grave abuses committed by both sides to the conflict are long overdue and should be a priority for the government.
Adhikari’s parents are on hunger strike to demand justice, and are now in intensive care in a Kathmandu hospital. Despite earlier promising to ensure justice, the Maoist leadership has made statements seemingly threatening a return to conflict if there is an investigation into Adhikari’s alleged abduction and murder.
Adhikari was allegedly abducted by Maoist forces on June 5, 2004, from Bakular village on suspicion of being an informer. The police investigation into the case was closed after the government decided in June 2006 not to pursue investigations into wartime cases pending the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In January 2013, after several futile attempts to find out what happened to their son, Adhikari’s parents began a brief hunger strike in front of the prime minister’s house. When that yielded no results, they began the current hunger strike, which they vowed to continue until they have answers.
In mid-August 2013 the government ordered an investigation into Adhikari’s death following a recommendation from the National Human Rights Commission. Before the government relented and ordered the investigation, Adhikari’s parents had come under severe pressure from the authorities to give up their protest.“Apparently the Maoists no longer believe in justice, at least when it comes to investigating their own crimes,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Police in Nepal should ignore these threats and investigate this killing and other wartime abuses.”
In a news release and at a meeting on August 13, the chairman of the Maoist party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, warned the government against reopening cases pertaining to the conflict era, insisting that they should be handled only through the stalled TRC. Dahal warned that the government’s decision to investigate the Adhikari case could derail the peace process and put the forthcoming elections at risk. He claimed further that Adhikari’s parents were being used by forces opposed to the Maoists. “There will be a revolt if such cases are revived,” Dahal is reported to have said in the meeting, adding: “We cannot accept the attempts to treat any conflict-era cases in a traditional way.”
The Maoists are not the first political party to dismiss the need for accountability. Several governments in Nepal have argued that conflict-era cases are politically motivated and have withdrawn hundreds of cases pending in courts against individuals affiliated with the Maoists and other political parties. The TRC ordinance, which Dahal argues is the only appropriate venue to hear these cases, is flawed and does not divest security forces and the justice system of their mandate to investigate and prosecute crimes, including conflict-related cases.
At least 13,000 people were killed during a decade-long armed conflict that started in 1996 between Maoists and government forces. The violence ended with a 2006 peace agreement that also assured justice for serious human rights violations during the fighting.
“Instead of listening to parents desperate to know who killed their son, the Maoist leadership is dismissing them as manipulated puppets,” Ganguly said. “Victims of the civil war should be heard and perpetrators of wartime abuses brought to justice. Let this process begin, at last, with the Adhikari family.”