A decade after a bloody war ended, Nepal has begun a transitional justice process for those who suffered during war.
Rights groups have slammed a deal between Nepal’s ruling parties to withdraw civil war cases from courts and offer amnesty to people accused of abuses during a decade-long Maoist rebellion.
Security forces and former Maoist rebels have been accused of carrying out torture, killings, rapes and “forced disappearances” during the conflict, which ended in 2006 leaving more than 16,000 dead.
The ruling Communist Party (Unified Marxist Leninist) of Nepal and its coalition partner, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), last week signed an agreement paving the way for war crimes cases to be withdrawn or pardoned.
In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) accused the two parties of attempting to “wash away the crimes of the conflict” with the new agreement.
“It flies in the face of Nepal’s international human rights obligations and the rulings of its own Supreme Court by trying to wash away the crimes of the conflict… and provide blanket amnesty to alleged perpetrators,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific director.
Nepal’s Supreme Court has repeatedly opposed attempts to grant amnesty for serious rights abuses.
The Himalayan nation set up two post-war commissions for transitional justice in 2015, which began to accept complaints from victims last month.
Activists accused the security forces of threatening witnesses, who have not been provided adequate safety and protection.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission for Enforced Disappearances were agreed as part of the peace pact signed between the Maoists and the government in 2006.
Although the Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants in several cases of alleged war crimes, only one verdict has been given, with five former Maoist rebels convicted in 2014 of the murder of a journalist.
An army colonel, who was arrested in January 2013 in Britain over allegations of torture committed during the war, is also facing trial in a British court.