SPECIAL EDITORIAL: Righting the wrongs

JAN 13 -

In the last few weeks, we have written editorial after editorial—a record for recent years-urging Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his government to demonstrate commitment to rule of law, due process, and human rights. No other government since the peace process started in 2006—and indeed since the restoration of democracy in 1990 save king Gyanendra’s absolutist government in 2005—has shown such disregard for human rights. Bhattarai government has reportedly withdrawn around 900 cases of rights violations, some of them very serious.

Indeed, we note with great distress that Bhattarai is now making the biggest blunder of his premiership, which threatens to destroy his political legacy as a prime minister in transition. Within less than a year and a half in office, he has come short of responding to the larger trust the Nepali people reposed on him. His position on human rights shows his political short-sightedness, partisanship, and disregard for democratic values.

Last week, he gave Nepali people to believe that the arrest of Col Kumar Lama—booked on two counts of torture in the United Kingdom—was an attack on our sovereignty. As a chief executive, he chose to ignore the fact that Nepal, where the incidents of torture took place, and UK, where the arrest took place, are both signatories to the Convention Against Torture (CAT), instead of reminding Nepalis of their international commitment. In his bid to appease the Nepal Army leadership and save potential detainees from his own party, he has demonstrated a peculiarly opportunistic trait.

There are now credible evidences that PM Bhattarai and Attorney General Mukti Pradhan have tried to withhold prosecution on the outstanding murder of Dekendra Raj Thapa, a journalist and human rights defender, who was killed by Maoist workers in Dailekh in 2004.

In doing so, the prime minister has not only let down the wife of the deceased who has shown great courage and perseverance for eight long years, he has also angered the media fraternity, human rights defenders, both local and international, and a host of other professional bodies.

President of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) Shiva Gaunle has warned the Prime Minister that he could face prosecution himself for obstructing justice on a grave human rights violation where one of the Maoist perpetrators has already confessed to the brutal murder of the Dailekh-based Radio Nepal journalist. Thapa, according to the perpetrator, was abducted, tortured, hung upside down and beaten with sticks before being buried alive.

PM Bhattarai insists that no prosecution should be carried out unless the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is put in place. TRC, however, cannot be a substitution to criminal justice system; it can only be a mechanism for reconciliation in a post-conflict society.

Only by carrying out prosecution, not by stopping it, will the Prime Minister demonstrate his commitment to TRC, human rights and rule of law. Indeed, PM Bhattarai needs to make a decisive statement that he intends to act on emblematic cases of rights violations-such as Maina Sunwar and Dekendra Raj Thapa.



Posted on: 2013-01-13 08:25