UN cautions Nepal against blanket amnesty for war crimes

KATHMANDU: Nepal risks more bloodshed in the future if a planned panel set up to investigate crimes committed during a decade-long civil war is given the power to offer amnesty, a senior official from the UN human rights agency said today.

Sabina Lauber, in charge of Nepal at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said giving amnesty to anyone guilty of serious crimes runs counter to Nepal’s obligations to humanitarian law and would deny victims their right to justice.

“Nepal has an obligation to investigate the truth and prosecute those responsible for grave human rights violations,” Lauber, on a visit to Nepal, said. “Amnesty prevents genuine peace and risks new conflict,” she said after a meeting with conflict victims and human rights workers in Kathmandu. “Victims don’t forget these crimes,” she added.

The main political parties, including Maoist former rebels, finalised an order last month to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of a Comprehensive Peace Accord aimed at healing wounds left by the war. As part of a deal, they included a clause allowing the panel to grant amnesty in some cases. Victim groups fear the vague wording is designed to let powerful rights abusers off the hook, possibly even those guilty of serious abuses.

Both the security forces and the Maoists have been accused of human rights violations, including unlawful killings, torture and rape during the conflict in which more than 16,000 were killed, hundreds disappeared and thousands injured.