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Nepal Maoists ride roughshod over war crime law


Kathmandu : Plunged into one crisis from another, Nepal’s ruling Maoist party Friday braced for more unrest after pushing through a controversial war crime bill without consulting human rights groups and civil society.

“The Maoist government is functioning just the way the autocratic regime of king Gyanendra had done,” opposition leader and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala told a visiting international team of journalists Friday, announcing that his Nepali Congress party would oppose the controversial bill.

On Thursday, Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and his cabinet issued three ordinances despite growing protests against the bid to push them through without seeking parliament’s approval.

Besides ordinances on reserving seats for disadvantaged communities and preparing a new electoral list, the most contentious is the ordinance on enforced disappearances.

The ordinance on disappearances will enable the government to form a commission that will investigate the enforced disappearances during the 10-year “People’s War” waged by the Maoists and other pro-democracy movements.

While the security forces were responsible for the lion’s share of the disappearances, the Maoists as well as various armed groups in the Terai plains in southern Nepal are also culpable.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, nearly 1,000 people are still missing despite efforts by the previous Koirala government to discover their whereabouts. It is feared that most have been killed.

Last week, human rights watchdogs Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International as well as Nepal’s top rights body, the National Human Rights Commission, urged the Prachanda government to enact the disappearance law only after discussions with civil society and tabling it in parliament.

The bid to push through the bill immediately after parliament was prorogued has given rise to fears that the Maoists are trying to protect their cadres from being punished for the crimes committed during the 10-year civil war.

Also in the offing is a bill on Truth and Reconciliation that aims to punish war crime perpetrators.

“It is vital that these bills be reviewed by victims, civil society, and the Constituent Assembly to ensure that they bring justice and are consistent with international standards,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Adopting these bills by decree will mean little public debate or scrutiny and will disempower survivors and victims.

“A government ordinance that enacts the bill as it currently stands would establish an ineffective and flawed institution, and would tragically miss an important opportunity to address impunity in Nepal,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia director at Amnesty International.

Koirala said his party would begin consultations with other parliamentary parties, especially regional party Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party that last month withdrew its “moral support” to the government, to plan a protest programme.

Even the Maoists’ ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) that is the third largest party after the Maoists and Nepali Congress, is opposing the ordinances.

UML leader and former deputy PM Madhav Kumar Nepal Friday told a mass meeting of his party men that laws should be enacted through parliament.