Nepal government asked not to push war crime bills

January 30th, 2009 - 3:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Jan 30 (IANS) Two leading Western human rights organisations Friday asked the Maoist government of Nepal not to use its muscle to push through bills that are vital for obtaining justice for hundreds of victims who disappeared or were tortured during the armed insurgency.Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have asked the government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to ensure public participation and the approval of the Constituent Assembly when it enacts the long-awaited laws on disappearances and truth and reconciliation.

The laws would make enforced disappearances a punishable crime and establish two inquiry bodies into the atrocities committed during the 10-year Maoist “People’s War” to punish the perpetrators, who belong to both the Maoist People’s Liberation Army and the state security forces.

The concern from the rights watchdogs came after the Maoist government Wednesday decided to push through three new bills via ordinances without tabling them in the interim parliament for approval.

“The Nepali government should submit the draft Disappearances and Truth and Reconciliation bills to the Constituent Assembly for consideration to ensure transparency and public participation in the legislative process,” the rights bodies said in a statement.

“The bills should be amended to ensure that they are consistent with international law and that they deliver truth, justice and reparations for victims and their families.”

In 2007, a year after the end of the communist uprising — that killed over 13,000 people and saw hundreds disappear — Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the new multi-party government to enact laws that would criminalise enforced disappearances and establish a high-level Investigation Commission for Disappeared People in accordance with international standards.

However, the drafts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bill as well as the Disappearances (Crime and Punishment) Bill have come under fire from rights organisations both in Nepal and abroad.

They are accused of falling short of international standards and containing serious flaws that would fatally compromise the credibility and effectiveness of the commissions once they are established.

“A government ordinance that enacts the two bills as they currently stand would establish two ineffective and flawed institutions and would tragically miss an important opportunity to address impunity in Nepal,” said Sam Zarifi, the Asia director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are urging Nepal to involve national and international civil society organisations, victims, human rights defenders, and people belonging to minority and vulnerable groups in the law-making process.

They are also asking that once the consultations are over, the drafts should be reviewed by the Constituent Assembly and not pushed through by the government in the form of ordinances.

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