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Blow for Nepal Army on Indian Army Chief`s visit eve

Last Updated: Monday, January 4, 2010 - 16:06

Kathmandu: As Indian Army Chief Deepak Kapoor arrives in Nepal on his first official visit to receive the honorary title of general of the Nepal Army, the latter`s triumph will be dulled by a blow dealt by the apex court, the first since the fall of King Gyanendra`s government four years ago.
Kapoor, who was scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu on January 31, has preponed his visit to January 19. During the four-day formal visit at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart, Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung, he will be conferred the honorary title at an investiture ceremony to be presided over by President Ram Baran Yadav on January 21.

However, the show of solidarity for the Nepal Army by the Indian Army was dimmed by the Supreme Court on Sunday ordering the coalition government to halt the controversial promotion of a senior Army officer with a tarnished human rights record.

Despite objections by the UN, the National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and other rights bodies, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal`s government last month promoted Major-General Toran Jung Bahadur Singh to lieutenant-general as well as second in command in the Army.

The general has been under fire by human rights bodies as the battalion commanded by him ran a secret torture camp in the heart of the capital during the end of the Maoist insurgency, illegally arresting and torturing suspected Maoists and their sympathisers and extra-judicially executing 49 people, whose bodies have yet not been found.

The UN rights agency in Nepal, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had conducted an investigation into the disappearances and said it had credible evidence that they vanished from the torture camp run by the battalion headed by Singh.

Though the general did not directly take part in the killings, the UN agency said as the head of the troops, he was accountable.

Singh`s promotion was challenged by three Maoist leaders, who had been detained in the camp but survived.

Chief Justice Anup Raj Sharma himself heard the petition and asked the government to halt the promotion.

In the past, though several controversial army officers have been taken to court and Army moves challenged, there has been no result due to the agonisingly slow judicial process in Nepal, especially when the defendants are powerful people.

Nepal`s earlier Army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, was also promoted despite his dark human rights record. Though a petition was filed in court, saying he had falsified his age, it is yet to be resolved even though the general retired last year with full honours.

The Indian Army Chief projected himself as anti-Maoist last month when he objected to the Maoist combatants` induction in the Nepal Army even though Nepal`s political parties had agreed to it.

The statement drew flak from the Maoists, who have accused him of naked intervention in Nepal`s internal affairs.

Human rights groups say the Indian Army`s support for the Nepal Army has prevented army officers from being punished despite committing atrocities during the Maoists` "people`s war".


First Published: Monday, January 4, 2010 - 16:06
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