Nepal's TRC: top court rules on proposed powers



KATHMANDU - Nepal's top court has rejected a demand by ultra-leftists that an amnesty be granted to people who committed serious rights abuses during the country's civil war, an official said on Saturday.

More than 16,000 people died in the conflict between Maoist rebels and the state, which ended in 2006, and more than 1,000 are still missing.

The Himalayan nation's top court was responding to a petition filed last year by the National Network of Families of the Disappeared and the Missing, an organisation of victims' families.

Last year, a Maoist-led government proposed legislation in which it sought amnesty for those responsible for cases such as "forced disappearances" -- kidnappings in which the victims never were found -- and other crimes.

The amnesty was put forward as part of the powers of a planned Truth and Reconciliation Commission aimed at healing the wounds from the long civil war.

But the court said no amnesty could be given for serious cases of rights abuses.

Both the security forces and the Maoists are accused of serious human rights violations, including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances during the civil war.

"The court has said that cases of forced disappearances come under criminal act and violators should not be given amnesties," Srikant Paudel, the spokesman of the Supreme Court told AFP.

The Truth and Reconcilation Commission was agreed as part of the peace pact signed between the Maoists and the government in 2007.

The pact transformed the former Hindu kingdom into a secular republic.

Paudel added the court had ordered the government to establish two separate commissions to investigate war-crimes and human rights abuses.

Nepalese human rights lawyer Hari Phuyal welcomed the move, calling it "historic".

"This decision is at par with international laws. This shows that victims can get justice and perpetrators will not go unpunished," he said.

Although the Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants over several cases of human rights abuses committed during the war, not a single accused has been arrested so far.

But a colonel of the Nepal Army, who was arrested in January last year in the United Kingdom over allegations of torture committed during the war, has been facing trial in a British court.

There are allegations of killings and torture on both sides, and rights groups say little has been done to bring justice to victims and their families.

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