UN warns Nepal against blanket amnesty

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has cautioned the Maoist-led government and the major political parties that any breach of UN conventions in course of handling serious human rights abuses may affect UN support to Nepal in the future.

Pillay’s comments follow an agreement between the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Maoist top brass last week to offer general amnesty to conflict-era crimes, including rape. An NC member engaged in finalising the bills on transitional justice mechanisms, Radhya Shyam Adhikari, has already tried to distance himself from the process.

Concerned over the recent developments in Nepal on the justice mechanisms, Pillay has quietly dispatched a letter to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and Constituent Assembly Chairman Subas Nembang. She has said the UN may not be able to support any initiative in the peace process that includes provisions inconsistent with international laws of which Nepal is a party, according to highly placed sources. The letter has been kept "confidential."

Pillay has cautioned the leaders that the bills on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Disappearance Commission should be consistent with Nepal’s obligations under UN conventions, especially the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Nepal acceded to the ICCPR in 1991 and ratified the CAT the same year. These international laws bar Nepal from granting amnesty to crimes under “universal jurisdictions” such as murder of an unarmed person, murder in detention, disappearances, rape and torture. The 1996-2006 conflict, according to the PMO, resulted in 16,729 deaths, displacement of about 78,689 persons and disappearance of 1,327.
Milan Tuladhar, who was the foreign affairs advisor to former PM Khanal, confirmed the receipt of the e-mailed letter on Saturday. “We have received the letter from Geneva regarding transitional justice issues,” he said. He said Pillay suggested parties to study the experience in Latin America (Peru) and South Africa, among others.
Sources said following the NC-Maoist deal to go for amnesty on Thursday, the UN rights office in Geneva, the UN headquarters in New York, Nepal-based diplomatic missions and rights watchdogs have mounted pressure on the government and the parties to consider respecting Nepal’s international treaty obligations.
NC leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula on Friday confirmed the “gentlemen’s agreement” for general amnesty. UML however still remains undecided on its position. UML Chairman Khanal said his party would oppose ‘blanket amnesty’. “We will not accept the bills if the parties go for total amnesty,” Khanal told the Post on Monday. Some UML leaders, however, said it will be okay if the bills retain some provisions to prosecute some “extreme cases.” (Sigdel reports on politics and human rights and this report first appeared in The Kathmandu Post, Dec 20, 2011: http://www.ekantipur.com/2011/12/20/top-story/transitional--justice-top-un-official-warns-political-parties-against-blanket-amnesty/345824.html)

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