A network of 24 civil society groups have demanded that the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) withdraw its invitation to House Speaker Agni Sapkota to attend its 143rd assembly that begins Friday in Madrid.
Sapkota of the Maoist Centre has been accused of summary execution during the conflict, and his case is pending in Nepal’s Supreme Court.
The Accountability Watch Committee (AWC), a network of human rights groups and victims of the conflict of Nepal, have written an open letter to the President of IPU Duarte Pacheco, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares Bueno and Ambassador to India and Nepal José María Ridao Domínguez asking that Sapkota not be invited to the conference.
‘We ask the Government of Spain to direct its immigration authorities not only to refuse Mr. Sapkota entry into the country but also to open an investigation under the principles of Universal Jurisdiction, given the continuing investigation in Nepal in relation to international crimes committed during Nepal’s conflict,’ wrote AWC coordinator Charan Prasai.
The news comes as Nepal this week marks the 15th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Accord between Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), effectively ending the insurgency in which at least 17,000 people were killed, and more than 2,000 are still missing.
But one and a half decades and 14 prime ministers later, and despite the formation of two commissions to investigate war time excesses, conflict-era survivors of torture, abuse, rape and families of those killed continue to wait for justice.
Nepal’s delayed transitional justice and multiple cases of the perpetrators being set free have added to the injustice and anguish of the victims and their families.
Speaker Sapkota himself is alleged to have been involved in the April 2005 abduction, torture, disappearance, killing and illegal burial of Arjun Bahadur Lama, a civic leader from Kavre district. During conflict years, Sapkota was a central committee member and leader of the underground Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) in Sindhupalchok district, neighbouring Kavre.
Sapkota was elected as Speaker in January 2020 amidst protests against his candidacy. Before this, he served as a cabinet minister after his party entered mainstream politics in 2006 after the peace accord.
‘Despite the order of the Supreme Court requiring impartial and prompt investigation and an arrest warrant pending against him, investigations have not proceeded for more than a decade nor has he been arrested. Meanwhile, even as Mr. Sapkota’s political career has progressed, as far as the Nepal Police administration is concerned, he still cannot be located,’ the letter states.
Due to the allegations pending against him, Sapkota has had visa applications rejected by the United States and Australia in the past.
The letter has been endorsed by prominent members of the civil society and rights organisations, including:Advocacy Forum-Nepal (AF)Amnesty International NepalBandurmudhe Ghatana Pidit SamitiConflict Victim Women National Network (CVWN)Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP)Conflict Victims National Alliance (CVNA)Conflict Victims Orphans Society (CVOS)Conflict Victims Society for Justice (CVSJ)Conflict Victims’ Rights Forum, MyagdiDemocratic Freedom and Human Rights Institute (DFHRI)Ganesh Ujjan FoundationHuman Rights and Justice Centre (HRJC)Human Rights for JusticeHuman Rights Organizations Nepal (HURON)Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)Legal Aid and Consultancy Centre Nepal (LACC)Maina Bal Bikash SamitiNagarik Aawaz (NA)National Alliance of Women Human Rights DefendersNational Network of Disabled Conflict Victims (NNDCV)Nepal Forum for Restorative JusticeTarangini FoundationThe Story KitchenVoices of Women Media (VOW Media)
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement issued jointly with Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and TRIAL International on 21 November: ‘State officials’ reluctance to investigate and prosecute such serious crimes has exacerbated the suffering of victims, undermined the rule of law in post-conflict Nepal, and increased the risk of such violations in the future.’
She went on to warn: ‘If justice is continually denied in Nepal, perpetrators of these international crimes committed during the conflict will be prosecuted abroad under international jurisdiction.’