[JURIST] Nepalese lawmakers [official website] passed legislation on Friday that could grant amnesty to former Maoist rebels and security forces accused of committing various war crimes, including torture and murder, during the nation’s civil war. The bill establishes [AFP report] two bodies for addressing the alleged commission of war crimes, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared. The commissions will investigate accusations of war crimes and hold hearings to determine if those found guilty of serious crimes qualify for full pardons, which the commissions will be authorized to grant subject to approval of the offer of amnesty by the victim(s). They will also take over current investigations and hearings that are presently pending in other courts and will have discretion over whether to transfer certain cases to another special court established by the bill. The commissions are the long-awaited result of an agreement contained within the peace deal ending the conflict, which promised to establish commissions to focus on peace and reconciliation rather than punishment. The bill will now pass to President Ram Baran Yadav for his signature and final approval. The legislation has stirred some controversy, reportedly prompting objections from some victim’s rights groups and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who worry that the amnesty provisions will undermine peace in Nepal [BBC backgrounder].
The push towards some form of amnesty for Nepalese war crimes has been ongoing and perpetually controversial. Earlier this month several human rights groups urged [JURIST report] the Nepalese government to reject the current amnesty legislation, stating that it would contravene international law based on its inclusion of certain amnesty provisions carried over from a former executive order granting blanket amnesty. Nepal’s Supreme Court rejected [JURIST report] legislation containing such blanket amnesty provisions as unconstitutional in January, finding them to be incompatible with international standards. In February several human rights groups called [JURIST report] on the Nepalese Parliament to respect the decision of the court after the rejected bill was reintroduced to parliament unchanged, despite the court’s instruction to either repeal or amend it. In March 2013 Pillay issued [JURIST report] a statement rejecting amnesty for serious human rights violations in Nepal, reportedly stating that to do so would, “deny the right of thousands of Nepalese to truth and justice.”