Journos concerned over Nepal govt`s `amnesty` move

The New York-based free press watchdog has written to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai over the issue.

Kathmandu: Amid mounting pressure on the
Maoist-led coalition to end the culture of impunity in Nepal,
an umbrella group of journalists has expressed concern over
the government`s move to grant amnesty to those accused of
crimes during the decade-long insurgency in the country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was
"alarmed by planned amnesty for (those involved in) criminal
cases linked to the insurgency".

In a statement it expressed concern that people convicted
of killing journalists might also be freed.

The New York-based free press watchdog has written to
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai over the issue, saying the
move to withdraw the "politically motivated cases" filed
against party leaders might end up pardoning those already

"It will have disturbing ramification for the prosecution
of any crime committed in the past 15 years. It would codify
the existing climate of impunity for killers of journalists
and others, both before and after the insurgency," said Joel
Simon, executive director of CPJ.

Earlier, international and local rights watchdogs have
flayed a reported deal between Nepal`s ruling alliance and the
Terai-based Madhesi front to withdraw cases and grant amnesty
to people indicted of crimes during and after the civil war in
the country.

CPJ expressed concern over recent remarks by Attorney
General Mukti Pradhan, who defended the agreement between the
UCPN-Maoist and the United Democratic Madhesi Front.

"We believe that a blanket withdrawal of criminal cases
would be abusing and not adhering to the peace accord," CPJ
said, adding "The opposition politicians, civil society groups
and journalists in Nepal also say that the proposal undermines
peace process".

"It would also encourage a continuance of attacks,
threats and harassment that journalists face in Nepal today,
by implying that your government places no value on defending
press freedom," it added, reminding Bhattarai that he had
promised not to make any compromise on press freedom.
"This planned amnesty would be a compromise," it said.

Earlier, Amnesty International Nepal, Human Rights Watch,
International Commission of Jurists and Advocacy Forum had
appealed to Bhattarai to honour the commitments made by both
the government and the Maoist party to hold perpetrators of
rights abuses accountable before the law.

However, the prime minister has denied that any agreement
to acquit the culprits has been reached.

"Decision was made to acquit only those implicated by
the state on fake charges during the People`s War, and Madhes,
Tharuhat and other movements," Bhattarai said during a meeting
with the human rights activists earlier this month.


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