Nepal goes north for climate, diplomats south for justice

December 3rd, 2009 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 3 (IANS) As nearly two-dozen Nepal ministers Thursday flew to the mountainous north to hold the first cabinet meeting ever in the lap of Mt Everest, nine western diplomats based in Kathmandu said they would head for the southern plains to seek justice.
The ambassadors and heads of mission from nine countries, the European Commission and the UN human rights agency OHCHR (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), will visit Bardiya, one of the most disadvantaged districts that was also among the worst-hit during the 10-year communist insurgency.

Though the Maoists and Nepal’s major parties signed a peace agreement in 2006, agreeing to form a commission that would punish rights abusers and disclose the fates of over 1,000 people who are still missing, neither side has kept the pledge.

Last year, after receiving reports of more than 200 disappearances in Bardiya, OHCHR investigated and documented the cases of 156 people who were allegedly disappeared by the security forces, the majority of them by the army.

It also investigated 14 disappearances attributed to the Maoists.

However, three years after the end of the armed conflict, the fate of most of those who disappeared at the hands of state authorities in Bardiya remains officially unknown.

Despite repeated requests for clarification by their families and by human rights organisations, and despite the army pledging to obey the government, the army has maintained a stony silence.

According to the OHCHR, it has “credible witness testimony” suggesting that a number of detainees were killed in custody, or soon after arrest.

It has also documented the systematic use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the army’s Chisapani Barracks in Bardiya.

Though the Maoists admitted killing 12 of the 14 victims, they have not handed over the cadre involved to the authorities.

Even Thursday, when nearly two-dozen ministers flew to the Everest region to prepare for the cabinet meeting Friday, the Maoists’ women’s organisations as well as families of the people disappeared or killed during the 10-year war encircled government offices nationwide, demanding their missing kin’s fate be made public and the culprits punished.

There was no reaction from the government that remained preoccupied with Friday’s unprecedented cabinet meeting at Gorak Shep, a sandy plateau at 5,262 m below the 8,848 m Everest summit, to draw world attention to the dangers posed to Nepal due to global warming and climate change.

However, the nine western ambassadors said they would travel to Guleriya, the main town in Bardiya, on Dec 9 to meet the families of the victims, and also visit some of the villages where the abductions or disappearances took place.

The envoys would also meet with district-level government and Maoist leaders, and on returning to Kathmandu, speak with senior officials to renew pressure on the government.

“Despite public commitments by both the government and the Maoist leadership, none of the perpetrators of these serious human rights violations has been held accountable for their actions,” the OHCHR said in a press statement Thursday.

“The delegation is likely to emphasise that continuing impunity for these crimes represents a growing threat to the success of the peace process.”

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