Nepal’s laws will leave civil war crimes unpunished

Nepal risks Human rights groups said on Monday that wartime atrocities committed during the Maoist insurgency in the Himalayan kingdom would go unpunished thanks to long-delayed transitional law reforms.

Both security forces and former insurgents have been accused of torture, murder, rape and enforced disappearance during Nepal’s decade-long civil war, which ended in 2006 with more than 16,000 deaths.

The authorities have been criticized for failing to properly investigate abuses: two commissions set up for this purpose in 2015 have failed to resolve a single case between them despite more than 60,000 complaints.

This month, the government introduced a bill to amend existing war criminal laws, seven years after the Supreme Court ordered amendments to prevent amnesties for serious human rights abusers.

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But a joint statement by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other international watchdogs said the proposed amendments would continue to make it difficult or impossible to bring the most notorious criminals to justice.

“Victims and their families, who have been looking forward to the amendments to the law, hoping that their demands for truth and justice will be met, are disappointed,” said Mandira Sharma of the International Commission of Jurists.

“Despite the promise of reforms, this bill, if implemented in its current form, will protect many criminals from prosecution,” she added.

According to the joint statement, some other aspects of the proposed reforms, including the restriction on the right to appeal, also fall short of international standards.

Suman Adhikari, whose father was killed by Maoist rebels in 2002, told AFP that the proposed amendments failed to address the victims’ concerns.

“We feel like we won’t get justice,” he said, adding that the reforms still seem “designed to grant amnesty to all those responsible.”

Critics say Nepal’s truth and reconciliation process was poorly planned from the start and suffocated by a lack of funding and political will, with many former Maoist rebels now in government ranks.

Only two convictions have been handed down in civil courts for crimes committed during the civil war, one for the murder of a teenage girl and the other for the murder of a journalist.