Kathmandu: A group of former Maoist child combatants filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and former PM Baburam Bhattarai accusing them of “war crimes.”
Former child combatants led by Lenin Bista, founding chair of the Discharged People’s Liberation Army, on Sunday, filed a case against Dahal and Bhattarai in the Apex court. The writ petition accused the two leaders of forcing them (then underage) to be part of military activities claiming it to be against the laws of International Human Rights.
In the 14-paged petition, nine petitioners have claimed the Maoist leaders committed war crimes by recruiting minors in the armed conflict.
“Committing war crime, we have been used as child soldiers by then Maoist Leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Dr Baburam Bhattarai who are here forth to be prosecuted further taking actions against them and till then the defendant especially Prime Minister who will be questioned over ethics for which the portfolio is requested to be suspended or unsustained issuing an interim order in the name of defendants,” the writ petition reads.
Soon after the lodging of the writ petition, the opposition Rastriya Prajatantra Party lawmaker Gyan Bahadur Shahi on Sunday’s parliamentary meeting demanded Prime Minister’s resignation from the post.
“As per rule 36 of the House of Representative Rules 2069, Prime Minister also is a member of this parliament. But today against the Prime Minister a serious case of war crimes has been lodged at the Supreme Court and the court has called for the first hearing over the case on 13 June 2023. I hereby want to ask him through the house speaker, at the time he goes to the court he will walk in there as the nation’s Prime Minister or Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda?” Shahi questioned.
“The honourable Prime Minister should resign immediately and open the ways further. He shouldn’t reside over the post on the basis of ethics,” the lawmaker added.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday was busy at a function at Banepa when the petition was registered and also remained absent from the parliamentary meeting. The first hearing over the case has been slated for Tuesday, as per the officials from the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court last week had scrapped its own administrative decision to block the petition of former child Maoist combatants. A single bench of Justice Anand Mohan Bhattarai on June 9, 2023, ordered the court staffers to register the petition that demands the prosecution of Dahal and Bhattarai.
Previously rejecting the petition on May 30, of this year, the court administration had argued that the case can be settled through the transitional justice mechanisms assigned with the task to oversee conflict-era cases.
United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) which oversaw and conducted the army integration in 2007 had termed thousands of rebel soldiers including the petitioners for being minors.
As per the report of UNMIN released back then, a total of 4008 combatants did not qualify for integration out of which 2,973 were verified as minors while the remaining 1,035 had joined the Maoist ‘People’s Liberation Army’ after the first ceasefire of May 26, 2006- six months before the peace deal was signed.
The government had provided between Rs 5,00,000 and Rs 8,00,000 each to the combatants who chose voluntary retirement. However, those disqualified didn’t get any substantial support, except for a few thousand rupees from the United Nations.