Political parties of different persuasions are finding it devilishly hard to come to the same page on most vital issues. Not so when it comes to protecting the criminal elements in their midst. Republica has learned that acting on recommendations of different political parties, the government is all set to withdraw around 70 criminal cases on the ground that they are “political” in nature. Apparently, the Office of the Attorney General has already approved a decision by Deputy PM and Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar to withdraw these cases.
Separately, the UN and international human rights organizations have expressed their grave reservations over the government decision to push through an ordinance on the formation of transitional justice mechanisms. According to a joint letter sent by four international rights bodies to the President on Tuesday, the ordinance “will empower a politically constituted commission with discretion to recommend amnesties for crimes under international law.” Also on Thursday, 12 diplomatic missions expressed their own concern over the draft ordinance.
In this we are one with the international community. There can be no two ways about it. All our political parties must commit themselves to obey the rule of law and to let due process run its course in criminal investigations and prosecution of rights violators. It is a shame that while NC and CPN-UML have been quick to flag one after another failure of the current government, they have chosen to keep mum even when the government is mulling amnesty for hardcore criminals. It is due to this collusion between the major parties that impunity has been on the rise despite the fact that it has been more than six years since the formal end of the 10-year-long civil war. If indeed they have colluded, once again, to protect criminal elements in their own ranks, the opposition parties have no moral right to point an accusing finger at the Bhattarai government for its failings on rights front.
Since the start of the peace process, this double-faced nature of political parties has contributed to thorough criminalization of politics and politicization of criminals. Thus the diplomatic missions and international rights bodies are perfectly entitled to ask the president not to endorse politically-motivated transitional justice mechanisms. It might be recalled that besides the new cases of pardon for criminals discussed above, it was the same Bhattarai government which had withdrawn criminal cases involving 349 individuals back in March. Irrespective of the pressure on Bhattarai from other parties to withdraw certain criminal cases, the head of the government must own up a big chunk of responsibility for his inability to resist such pressure.
The UCPN (Maoist) can be held equally culpable in making such dubious demands before a caretaker prime minister unbound by checks against executive excesses. So far UCPN (Maoist) and Bhattarai have done precious little to indicate that they are serious about providing justice to conflict-era victims and improving widespread culture of impunity. For Bhattarai, the latest bid for amnesty for criminals can only be seen as a last-ditch attempt of a prime minister struggling to withstand the relentless heat on him to call it quits