By Ram Khatry
18 January 2020
Human rights and conflict studies scholars assert that Prachanda has finally confessed his monstrous war crimes and therefore the former Prime Minister of Nepal must face prosecution for his leading role in the blood bath between 1996 and 2006.
If not, the experts warn Nepal, international community “can” step in to ensure the former guerrilla leader stands trial for the mass murder committed during the decade-long civil war between Maoist rebels and government forces.
The experts were reacting to Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda’s statement last Wednesday when he announced that the party he led, the now defunct Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), was responsible for the execution of only 5000 Nepalese citizens.
The remaining 12000 murders, he nonchalantly quantified, were the doings of the state – the “state” he ironically is currently part of. His co-chairman within the Communist Party of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, heads the current Nepalese government.
A representative of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) took a swipe at Nepalese political parties for failing to live up to the commitments made under the peace agreement and warned that if the Nepalese government continues to fail its duty then the international community may get involved in the matter.
“Nepali authorities, and those responsible for human rights violations, whether the Maoists or government forces, should know that if there is continued failure in accountability, prosecutors around the world can be ready to step in,” HRW’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly warned in an emailed response to southasia.com.au’s request for a comment on Prachanda’s confession.
Dr Bhimarjun Acharya, a constitutional expert from Kathmandu, regards the public confession of the former Maoist supremo as his confession of wartime crimes.
“Statement of Prachanda can be considered as the confession of crimes. He is now fit to be tried in both domestic & international court of law,” Dr Acharya said in an emailed response to southasia.com.au.
Dr DB Subedi, a peace and conflict expert associated with the University of New England, concurs with both Ms Ganguly and Dr Acharya when he remarked that Prachanda may not be able to avoid trial indefinitely. “Prachanda’s recent confession about the killings can attract an investigation at the international level if Nepal’s legal system fails to deliver justice to the victims,” the Armidale-based scholar said.
Drawing on the fate of war criminals elsewhere in the world, the peace and conflict studies scholar reminded that war criminals cannot escape prosecution permanently, “War criminals may escape or block legal actions and prosecution within a country, but they can be eventually tried in the international criminal court under the International Humanitarian Law.”
“Nepal’s track record in formulating laws and policies for transitional justice is not encouraging,” he rued, “In the past there have been attempts to push for an “amnesty” instead of prosecution and justice, which received mounting criticism within the country as well as internationally.”
Bikram Timilsina from the Griffith University, who as a PhD candidate takes keen interest in international affairs as well as minutely analysing and commenting on Nepal events, shares Dr Subedi’s scepticism about Nepalese leaders’ commitment to transitional justice, ““It’s very natural for international human rights agencies to be frustrated about the prolonged transitional justice in Nepal.”
Mr Timilsina also believes that someday international agencies may be compelled to intervene if “domestic political actors” continue to fail them. He says Nepalese politicians must understand that in today’s world serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity are not purely a domestic matter.
“Any negligence in addressing questions about such horrific crimes, in an internationally accepted manner, attracts a serious international attention, to the extent of international prosecution. It’s unfortunate that the domestic actors in Nepal are not adequately heedful of this fact,” the Griffith Asia Institute student said.
Asked how he felt when he first saw the video in which Prachanda announced that his party was responsible for killing “only” 5000 people, Dr DB Subedi said that the statement raised many questions. “On what basis did he claim the number? Why he made such confession at the time when the government is likely to reform the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Perhaps Prachanda might have intended to test the public mood about truth, reconciliation and transitional justice, but he failed to realise that his public confession is an evidence of war crime for which he can be arrested and prosecuted any time,” Dr Subedi said in an interview with southasia.com.au.
The conflict expert expressed concern that Prachanda appeared to be playing with the “number” while undermining true accountability and seriousness of the crime, which makes the victims and their families extremely concerned.
Dr Subedi also pointed out that the much-needed transitional justice and reconciliation (TRC) process in Nepal has been highly politicised. “This is partly because alleged perpetrators including former Maoist leaders are in the power and they want to manipulate the process in their favour. Without strong political will and commitment on the part of the government, a fair transitional justice process is less likely to happen,” he stated.