Litmus test for govt: Army Maj. Gen. Toran's promotion could have repercussions

Litmus test for govt: Army Maj. Gen. Toran’s promotion could have repercussions




THE KATHMANDU POST, NOV 28 - The international community, concerned over the culture of impunity in Nepal, has been closely observing Maj. Gen. Toran Jung Bahadur Singh’s case as a ‘litmus test’ to correct its human rights records.

Singh, a senior Nepal Army official, was implicated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of serious human rights abuses, specifically for his role in the disappearance of 49 detainees from Bhairavnath Battalion, in 2003-04.

OHCHR has recommended Gen. Singh’s suspension pending  investigation by a civilian authority. Rights defenders say if the government fails to take action now, it will lose a golden opportunity to set a healthy precedent, not only for
Nepal but for the entire South Asia region, where impunity is a shared concern.

They observe that the government’s vacillation over the NA proposal to promote Singh as the Army’s second-in-command has only deepened the international community’s suspicion whether the Army is committed to right its human rights record. An alliance of 11 donor countries, which have strong leverage with the UN, has been pressing the government to set an example by initiating action against Singh.

OHCHR-Nepal chief Richard Bennett says ignoring the international community’s call could have serious ramifications for
Nepal. “The consequences could range from sending a general message that NA is not serious about changing the culture of impunity to adverse impact on UN missions,” says Bennett. Nepal is the fifth largest contributor of troops to UN peacekee-   ping missions and participation in them provides huge personal incentives for Nepalis.

Bennett is also of the opinion that NA’s institutional integrity should be preserved, but for that, he says, the institution needs to be accountable. He maintains that OHCHR recommendations are not made out of ‘personnel vendetta’ against either Gen. Singh or anyone else, including the Maoists.

The UN has delivered some strong messages already. Some senior NA officials, including Gen. Singh and Gen. Dilip Rayamajhi, have already been denied entry into UN service in
New York, because of their tainted human rights records. “This keeps the NA listening to us,” says Friderick Rawaski, Coordinator of Accountability and Rule of Law Project of OHCHR-Nepal.

Other adverse impacts could include jeopardising NA’s military ties with influential UN member-states, as the
US and UK, have both gone on record against Singh’s promotion.

For their part, NA officials say they will accept any ‘fair’ decision of the government but action against any NA official has to follow ‘due legal procedure.’ 

As much as Gen. Singh’s case, human rights defenders cite another landmark case. NA’s continued failure to take action against Maj. Nirajan Basnet, charged for the murder of Maina Sunwar in Kavre, stands out. Much to human rights defenders’ dismay, Maj. Basnet has been deployed in a UN mission in
Chad, in what is seen as NA’s gross oversight of his human rights record. NA’s defence is that Basnet was sent after a court martial acquitted him and that no action can be taken against any of its official unless the charges are proved through a credible investigation.

“That’s a pretty lame argument,” said an international human rights worker based in
Nepal. “The onus is not on the UN but on the NA to demonstrate that it’s committed to protecting human rights. And it can do that by recalling Maj. Basnet, without the UN having to intervene.”


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