Thousands of war crimes unpunished in Nepal: HRW

Nepal govt has failed to act on thousands of allegations of wartime killings.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s failure to prosecute thousands of wartime killings and other atrocities is contributing to a breakdown of law and order in parts of the country, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

In a new report, the New York-based rights group urged Nepal`s government to fulfil a commitment made in the 2006 peace agreement to bring those responsible for killings, torture and forced disappearances to justice.

More than 16,000 people died in the 10-year conflict between Maoist rebels and the state, which ended in 2006, and thousands more are still missing.

But no perpetrator of wartime atrocities has yet been successfully prosecuted by a civilian court, and HRW said the lack of accountability was creating a culture of impunity for rights abuses in Nepal.

"Inaction from the Nepal government enables people responsible for killings, torture, and disappearances to evade justice, sometimes in defiance of court orders," said deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson.

"If past abusers aren`t held to account, this sends a clear signal to current perpetrators that they too will be immune from prosecution."

The report, "Indifference to Duty: Impunity for Crimes Committed in Nepal", was compiled with Nepalese rights group Advocacy Forum and documents 62 cases of killings, disappearances, and torture carried out between 2002 and 2006.

Most were committed by state security forces, but some were blamed on the Maoist People`s Liberation Army, and the report said both forces were using their power to impede investigations.

"Police officers fail to seek court sanctions in part because they know the Nepal Army and Maoists will not cooperate with investigations," it said.

One such case involved Army Major Niranjan Basnet, who was implicated in the murder of a 15-year-old girl tortured to death in Army custody during the conflict.

Last year, Basnet was sent home from peacekeeping duties in Chad at the request of the United Nations, but he remains free despite a district court issuing a warrant for his arrest on a murder charge.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that he could be tried in a civilian court, but the Army still refuses to hand him over to police, saying he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a military tribunal.

"The Nepal Army is not formally challenging this supreme court decision, but it is undermining the rule of law by not cooperating with the Kavre district court," the report said.