Accepting a recommendation of the Nepal Army (NA), the Nepal government has promoted Colonel Raju Basnet, an alleged human rights violator, to Brigadier-General. The move came despite objections from international human rights organisations and has drawn criticism from a Maoist leader and local activists.
A report of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), released in 2006, documented 49 cases of “enforced disappearances and torture” at the Maharjgunj barracks of the Bhairabnath Battalion, which was led by Colonel Basnet, in 2003. His brother, Colonel Kiran Basnet, had been killed by Maoists earlier that year.
Security forces, at that time, had arrested hundreds of suspected Maoists in the capital in cases that activists termed “arbitrary detention”. The National Human Rights Commission presented similar findings. Also, the Supreme Court directed the government to investigate the incidents in an order that has not been heeded so far.
The army had recommended promotion of Colonel Basnet in the past, which the government had rejected. In July, in a joint statement, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Commission of Jurists, had warned that Nepal should “investigate”, not promote, an army Colonel implicated in dozens of cases of enforced disappearances and torture.
The Maoist-led government’s decision drew criticism from a Maoist leader who was a “victim” in the case. Krishna KC, a prominent party student leader in 2003 and currently a Maoist central committee member, was held in secret detention and tortured in the Kathmandu barracks.
Speaking to The Hindu on Thursday night, Mr. KC said, “The decision to reward [Colonel] Basnet is a blot. It is shameful. The government could have stopped it, should have stopped it and not done such a controversial thing. These cases will not go away and will re-emerge, even in ten years.”
When pointed out that the army’s case rests on the fact that no Maoist involved in human rights atrocity has been punished either, Mr. KC said, “We came through a political process and achieved victory. But if we have done criminal acts, we should be punished too.”
The issue of war-time atrocities, impunity, and demands for justice remain unaddressed in Nepal’s peace process so far. The government has proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with provisions for blanket amnesty, but this has been opposed by victim groups and human rights organisations.