Major parties in Nepal prepare to grant blanket amnesty to over 17,000 crimes

Perpetrators of rape, enforced disappearances, murder, torture and abduction to be pardoned

The Kathmandu Post, Dec 17:
In what is sure to create a huge commotion among conflict victims and the human rights fraternity, the top two parties have agreed to grant blanket amnesty to all cases of crimes perpetrated by both the state and Maoist forces during the 10-year armed conflict.
In all post-conflict societies, opinions remain deeply divided over how the state should tackle past crimes. Still, there is near-universal acknowledgement that without ensuring reparation to the victims and their families, justice will not have been delivered and the society remains caught up in the trauma of the conflict. The top brass of the UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress (NC) reached an understanding to opt for blanket amnesty late on Thursday night after discussing the pending bills on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission for Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances.
Though the CPN-UML is likely to voice strong reservations on the NC-Maoist position, NC and Maoist leaders sounded confident over bringing the third largest party on board on the amnesty issue. A majority vote in the parliament will get the bills through.
After a two-hour-long meeting on Thursday, PM Baburam Bhattarai, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula concluded that the country would “secure lasting peace only if it chose the path of reconciliation and amnesty to address all conflict-era crimes.” If the transitional mechanisms are formed in line with the agreement, the perpetrators of over 1,300 enforced disappearances, hundreds of cases of rape, and some 16,000 deaths reported during the armed conflict will be pardoned.
“We agreed to go for reconciliation and amnesty instead of prosecution for all kinds of crimes because this is what we believe is key to securing lasting peace,” Sitaula told the Post. “If we go for prosecution, no single person will be spared. From former king to the top brass of major parties, including Maoist and NC leaders, all will end up facing some or other form of prosecution. We just cannot single out those in the junior ranks in the parties.” Leaders, however, were not clear about how this would give way to a roadmap towards lasting peace, given the absence of provisions of prosecution.
Earlier, a technical panel comprising experts from all major political parties had agreed to deny amnesty for some crimes under universal jurisdictions—disappearances, murder of unarmed persons, murder in detention and rape. Later, when the draft bills reached the political level, the parties agreed to prosecute only rape and disappearance.
On Thursday, the scope of prosecution was further narrowed down to rape. But finally, they ended up agreeing to scrap the provision of prosecution altogether—after it came to light that most cases of rape were allegedly against the government security forces, including the Nepal Army.
 “Any decision to prosecute rape cases alone would have been unfair to the security forces,” said a senior NC leader. “So we thought it was best to reconcile and pardon all outstanding cases.” 
Maoist leader and advocate Ek Raj Bhandari, a member in the TRC technical panel, said it is possible to find prosecution within reconciliation too. “To realise one’s crimes is also a kind of punishment,” he said. “No one would have signed the peace deal had it spoken of punishing each other.” He added that reparation should be guaranteed to ensure peace.
Earlier, the Maoists and NC were for adopting a South African model of the TRC that emphasised on reconciliation, whereas the UML’s version of the TRC was more weighed on justice and gave greater say to victims in deciding amnesty for perpetrators. “We will not agree if the parties opt for total amnesty,” said Pradeep Gyawali, a UML leader and a member of a political task force that was assigned to iron out the inter-party differences on the bills. NC leaders said there are, however, still chances that the parties could agree to prosecute some of the crimes if the lawmakers demand so in the parliament.
(Sigdel reports on politics and human rights issues. Originally published in The Kathmandu Post on December 17: )

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