03/22/2013, 00.00
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Govt introduces secret amnesty to save war criminals

by Kalpit Parajuli
United Nations comes out against the move, which blocks trials against party officials accused of crimes against humanity, many of whom now sit in parliament.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - In a surprise move, the new Nepali government has changed the terms of reference for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission guaranteeing amnesty for people guilty of crimes against humanity committed during 11 years of civil war between the Hindu monarchy and Maoists.

Prime Minister Khil Raj Regmi's decision is expected to speed up trials against former Maoist and royalist officials that have hindered the reconciliation process so far, but the new rules, adopted in secret, have provoked a wave of criticism from the United Nations and the European Union, which accuse the new government of acting irresponsibly and in complicity with those responsible for crimes.

"You cannot, and should not, force people to reconcile. Reconciliation, by its nature is a voluntary act," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. "Such amnesties would not only violate core principles under international law but would also weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace in Nepal," she added.

Ms Pillay questions also the process by which the new decree was adopted, without consultation with civil society groups, especially the associations representing the victims' families.

Yesterday, United Nations and European Union representatives, who have been supervising the reconciliation process, have called on the government to step back from its plan.

To convince growing opposition, Foreign Affairs Minister Madhav Ghimire met with European Ambassadors this morning to explain Nepal's position on the controversial law.

According to government sources, Nepali diplomats to United Nations and other international missions, including Shankar Bairagi in Geneva, will register a note with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights against Pillay's statement.

Reconciliation and war crimes trials are among the main factors that led to the fall of the previous government led by Maoist Prime Minister Baburan Bhattarai.

In February, he blocked a number of cases in order to save Maoist officials involved in massacres during the civil war. One of them involved the investigation into the death of Dekendra Thapa, a journalist killed by Maoists fighters in August 2004 in Dailekh.

Despite the creation in 2007 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in cooperation with the United Nations, Maoists, Communist and major leaders in rightwing parties involved in crimes refused to hand over officials accused of crimes against humanity committed during the country's civil war. Many of them are now career politicians, lawmakers or holders of high government office.

Since trials began, leftwing parties in power have tried to undercut the process. In 2008 and 2009, the ruling Maoists had 282 cases dropped; in 2010, the Communist government that replaced them had 309 cases dropped.

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