Can Sapkota be investigated in Spain under the principles of universal jurisdiction?
A group of Nepalese human rights organizations on Wednesday called on the Spanish government to open an investigation into President Agni Sapkota under the principles of universal jurisdiction for his alleged involvement in crimes committed during the Maoist insurgency.
Accountability Watch Group, a network of 24 human rights organizations and victims’ associations in Nepal, said Sapkota must be investigated for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Arjun Lama of Dapcha in the district of Kavrepalanchok in 2005. Sapkota is in Madrid to participate in the 143rd assembly of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organization of 179 parliamentary bodies around the world.
In its letter to IPU President Duarte Pacheco, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares Bueno and Madrid Envoy to New Delhi and Kathmandu José María Ridao Domínguez, the group said that the Union and the Spanish government had to follow up on Nepal’s appeal.
Only on Saturday, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Comprehensive peace agreement, signed between the then-rebel CPN (Maoist) and the government in 2006 which marked the end of a ten-year armed conflict, four international human rights organizations have declared that the perpetrators of the armed conflict could be prosecuted. foreigner. In a joint statement by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and TRIAL International, those responsible for international crimes committed during the conflict remain vulnerable to prosecution abroad under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
“There are sufficient grounds for Sapkota to be investigated in Spain under the principle of universal jurisdiction,” Charan Prasai, group coordinator, told the Post. “Even if that does not happen, we believe our decision will create pressure to speed up the transitional justice process which is currently at a standstill.” Fifteen years have passed since the peace agreement and nearly seven years have passed since the formation of two transitional justice commissions, no significant progress has been made in bringing justice to the thousands of victims of the insurgency.
Human rights defenders and lawyers say war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture fall under universal jurisdiction. However, the respective countries must have a law in place to prosecute such cases. An Amnesty International report 193 member shows United Nations states, 166 to 86 percent, have such a law in place. However, only 19 countries, including Spain, have so far investigated such crimes.
Raju Chapagain, a human rights lawyer, said that it is not enough to have a law and that there must be complaints against these people in the respective countries and that the country must be prepared to investigate. they. It is not certain that a complaint has been filed against Sapkota in Spain and the group itself is unaware of it.
“Cases of gross human rights violations can be investigated in any country, regardless of where the crime was committed,” Chapagain said. “Jurisdiction usually comes into play when the country concerned is unwilling to investigate such cases but does not have the legal capacity to do so. “
Lama was reportedly killed after kidnapping and tortured under Sapkota’s leadership. Lama was kidnapped by CPN (Maoist) cadres on April 19, 2005.
The National Human Rights Commission concluded in its own
investigations that Lama was being held by the then rebel group and
was killed after torture. The commission also ordered the exhumation of his body.
Sapkota was elected Speaker of the House on January 26 last year when the cases against him were pending in the Supreme Court. There are three pending Supreme Court petitions against Sapkota. First, against the reluctance of the police to investigate the charges against him, second his appointment as Minister of Information in July 2012 and third against his appointment as president in January 2020.
The hearings on the petitions against him have been postponed more than 25 times.
Four different international conventions – the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1954 Hague Convention, the 1984 Convention against Torture and the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – contemplate international jurisdiction over such crimes. Under universal jurisdiction, any country can investigate and prosecute those suspected of crimes committed outside the territory of the state.
Previously, Nepalese Army Colonel Kumar Lama was arrested by the British government in January 2013 under its Criminal Justice Act, in connection with incidents that allegedly occurred between April and May 2005 at the military barracks in Gorusinghe in Kapilvastu district. He was released in September 2016 after the UK government withdrew the cases for lack of evidence.
Human rights activists said the Kapilvastu District Court found Lama’s involvement in torture and that he was fined. Since there was no law to prosecute torture, he did not face legal action. It was a reason for the British government to arrest him for prosecution. Gauri Pradhan, former member of the National Human Rights Commission, said universal jurisdiction has not only a human rights aspect, but also a political aspect attached to it. There was a case against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the United States in connection with the riots in Gujarat when he was chief minister. The The US government later withdrew the case.
Likewise, the US government assured the non-investigation against CPN (Maoist Center) President Pushpa Kamal Dahal in March 2019 before his visit to the United States for the treatment of his sick wife. However, in 2016 he canceled his trip to Australia, fearing that he would be detained there over complaints related to crimes from the insurgency era.
“The transitional justice process will never end as long as the [Maoist] the party leadership realizes that it can have multiple repercussions if not resolved, ”said Prasai. “We believe our letter will help put pressure on the party leadership. ”