KATHMANDU, Jan 17: The statement of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal in public that he takes responsibility for the killing of 5,000 people in the course of the decade-long Maoist armed insurgency and that he would secure the early release of someone convicted for the Tikapur massacre has stirred serious debate in the legal fraternity.
While a section of lawyers have termed his statement unbecoming of someone of his political stature and an open challenge to the rule of law, others have argued that his open admission of responsibility for the killing of at least 5,000 people and commitment to release a convicted criminal in utter disregard of the law should draw the attention of the law enforcement agencies of the country.
Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said since this kind of public confession also serves as a notice of crime it needs to be taken up seriously by law enforcement. “This is nothing less than a public confession by the chief of the former rebels and so it should be taken as information for initiating legal action,” said Acharya.
Dahal publicly announced that he was responsible for the killing of 5,000 individuals during the Maoist insurgency from 1996 to 2006 but not for the entire 17,000 individuals killed. He also claimed that his party and the government had been working to secure the early release of some of the individuals convicted by court in connection with the Tikapur massacre.
Section 15 of the Police Act, 1955 gives powers to the police to act on such notice as a notice of crime and initiate investigations. So, the police should act on it. As per this provision, it is the duty of the police to act on such information in order to prevent future crime as well as maintain the rule of law.
Obey orders issued by a competent authority according to the law; promptly execute and serve warrants issued by such an authority; collect information regarding activities which are likely to affect law and order and submit the same to the higher authorities to prevent crimes; track down criminals and cause them to be punished according to the law; and arrest persons who must be arrested under the law. These are part of the duty of the police.
Legal experts have also taken strong exception to Dahal’s commitment to secure the early release of suspended lawmaker Resham Chaudhary from jail.
They argue that such a commitment in public is open disrespect of the independence of the judiciary and human dignity since Chaudhary is in jail as per the verdict of a competent court of law in connection with the Tikapur massacre. Dahal’s statement goes directly against Article 128 of the Constitution, which states that respecting court orders is the duty of every individual as well as of the government authorities.
Speaking at a function organized to mark the Maghi Festival in the capital on Wednesday, Dahal said that Chaudhary, who is serving a life sentence at Dillibazar Prison and has an appeal pending at Dipayal High Court, would be released from jail shortly.
Along with Chaudhary, Kailali District Court had convicted 11 individuals for the killing of seven police personnel on duty and a little child.
Dahal stated that the government and his party have been holding discussions in relation to Chaudhary’s release. “Some friends have already been released but some such as Resham are yet to be released... he would be released as soon as possible,” Dahal had said.
Not only under domestic law but also international law, Dahal needs to be held responsible for his public statement. Senior advocate Shanker Kumar Shrestha said Dahal’s confession should attract legal liability.
“He said that he is responsible for the killing of 5,000 individuals, so he needs to take legal responsibility for that,” Shrestha said. “This is the main question because no one should be able to carry out extra-judicial killings.”
Since it is a confession, there is a need to identify the people who were killed by Dahal and his party and the victim parties are entitled to justice and compensation. “These statements need to be duly taken up under law even if he justifies the killings,” Shrestha further said.
Former attorney general Raman Kumar Shrestha, who is close to Dahal, said such statements bespeak a serious lack of statesmanship.
“Politicians have a tendency to interfere in judicial matters, but it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to resist such interference and work independently,” he said.