Cry for Justice

MURARI SHARMA

Belgicia Howell says, “Never explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.” Here is a case in point. My foes have launched a sponsored (as leaked Foreign Ministry documents suggest) and false (sans evidence) media persecution against me.

 My friends have not asked for any explanation. They know how Prachanda and Upendra Yadav wronged and humiliated me breaking internal rules and international diplomatic norms. How they allegedly sold the post to someone when I refused to sell the London embassy building, join their parties and contribute money. How their henchmen threatened me. How clean I have always been. My friends understand that if I chose exile at this stage in life, there must be an overarching reason and overwhelming evidence for it. 

My enemies would not believe a thing I say to defend me because they are the ones planting falsity and half-truths in the media. They do it in revenge.They did it when I fought Yadav’s injustice and when someone complained about their involvement in human trafficking and financial irregularities to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. My foes are doing it now because two former local staff reportedly filed a similar complaint again. (Disclaimer: I am not behind the complaint). 

Spectacular is my foes’ stretch of imagination. For instance, they published that the British government gives me 5,000 pounds a month. If it were true, everyone in Nepal would want to take refuge in the UK. A 5,000-pound spending on carpets, which can be checked with the ministry, becomes 50,000-pound scandal for my foes; add zeros for exaggeration. Only fools would believe such absurdity. My friends don’t believe it. For others, this ludicrous mud-slinging is a passing entertainment. 

I hate to engage with my persecutors in this filthy war of words. As poet Mohan Koirala once reportedly said, “You cannot cower in a corner or howl back if a pack of jackals howls at night by the Dhobi Khola.”

Such persecution is age-old. Despots and extremists have rewarded some and persecuted others. They have used falsity, threats, violence and incarceration to silence and suppress their opponents. Victims have often fled their countries for safety: Krishna Koirala, BP Koirala, and Pushpalal Shrestha (Nepal); Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan); Karl Marx and Albert Einstein (Germany); M Reja Pahlavi (Iran); Thaksin Sinawatra (Thailand); MF Hussain (India); Norodom Sinhanouk (Cambodia); and the Dalai Lama (Tibet) are some examples.

The perpetrators continue to vilify the victims with false propaganda in exile and humiliate or kill when they return home. Saddam Hussein taunted his sons-in-law to return from Jordan and killed them in cold blood. Pervez Musharraf castigated Bhutto and Sharif while they were living abroad, and allegedly murdered her when she went home. In Nepal, Shah Kings portrayed BP Koirala as anti-national in exile and charged him with treason on return. The Maoists and their collaborators have gone one step further: They have persecuted and killed ordinary people too. 

In ‘normal’ countries, threats, humiliations, and circumstances are personal. That Prachanda has challenged the state to arrest him for war crimes, blamed the victims and threatened with another conflict if justice for war crimes is pursued suggests that Nepal is not normal. It is lawless. No wonder, since 1996 nearly 200,000 Nepalis have taken refuge in the West. And 17,000 have been killed; if they had fled the country, most would have been alive today. 

Nanda Prasad and Ganga Maya Adhikari of Gorkha, now fasting-onto-death for justice, would have preferred their son, Krishna Adhikari, 17, living in exile to being killed at home. Ditto the families of Ujjan Shrestha, Arjun Lama, Dekendra Thapa, Maina Sunuwar, the victims of the Bandermudhe bus explosion and other atrocities mounted by the Maoists and security forces.Some did not have the means; others did not realize the potency of threat.

The families of victims have been crying for justice for years. Friends of justice—victimized population, human rights community, and other conscientious people—need no explanation. For them, justice is essential to heal the wounds of war, deter people from committing crimes, protect society by putting criminals away, and give culprits the time to reflect, repent and reform. 

However, Maoist leaders Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai don’t seem to believe in justice. They have been blaming the victims and threatening to start another conflict if justice were done. They want the ongoing investigations into war crimes stopped and new ones prevented, and a blanket amnesty for the alleged Maoist perpetrators secured. In a desperate attempt, Bhattarai, as prime minister, sent a draft ordinance containing a blanket amnesty to the President who has rightly put it on hold. Prachanda’s recent challenge to arrest him for war crimes also goes too far.

We may not convert Prachanda and Bhattarai into supporters of justice. Yet we must try to persuade the people of good conscience—including among the Maoists and security personnel—to fight for justice and tip the scale in its favor. 

To start, the 12-point agreement has no provision for amnesty. It only provides for resolving war crimes and constituting a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). The UN guidelines for TRC, the Geneva Conventions and South African experience demonstrate that TRC should resolve only minor conflict-era crimes. Major war crimes—murder and maiming of civilians, destruction of civilian property—must come under the national criminal justice system or international tribunals. 

Early and proportionate justice for war crimes is in Maoist interest as suggested by three recent developments. One, the arrest of Col Kumar Lama of the Nepal Army in Britain for conflict-era atrocities in Nepal indicates that the sword of Damocles would hang over the heads of Maoist leaders as long as Western countries do not see the evidence of adequate justice in Nepal. Besides Britain, many Western countries have laws with extraterritorial jurisdiction against serious human rights violations. 

Two, the victims of conflict-era atrocities have ratcheted pressure on government for justice. The Adhikari couple’s hunger strike, and the growing support for them, has compelled the Khil Raj Regmi government to investigate their son’s murder seriously. Similarly, the victims of the Bandermudhe bus explosion have rejected financial compensation and demanded punishment for the perpetrators. Others will follow suit forcing the government to bring all war criminals to justice. 

Three, despite repeated protests from their leaders, the alleged Maoist killers of Dekendra Thana, a journalist, have surrendered in a great show of penance and moral conscience. Others will follow if government and human rights organizations replicate India’s ‘dacoits rehabilitation package’ to assist the families whose breadwinners surrender before the law. 

All this, together with the law of nature that works in a weak-strong-weak cycle, may grant Prachanda his ill-advised wish. The law of man will catch when he is weak. Already, the Maoists are on a decline. Since 2008, they have not accomplished much more than integrating their combatants into the army. They are largely blamed for failing to write the constitution. They proved to be as corrupt as other parties. Their party has split. If other victims follow the Adhikari couple’s example, people may punish the Maoists in upcoming CA II polls. 

Famous detective Allan Pinkerton warns, “Crime might flaunt its victories in the face of honest toilers, but the law will follow the wrongdoer to a bitter fate, and dishonor and punishment in the end.” Examples abound. The former presidents of Egypt, Pakistan and Liberia—Mubarak, Musharraf, and Taylor, respectively—are facing trials. Eventually, the long hand of law reached the Nazi, Khmer Rouge, and military leaders. The Maoist leaders had better choose a different path before it is too late. 

Belgicia Howell should perhaps approve of some explanation if it helped remove the gap between friends and enemies on issues like freedom to choose and justice for war crimes.

 

Published in Republica: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=61010&show_comments=true

Published on 2013-09-08 01:15:28

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