Court issues show cause notice against Dahal, Bhattarai over use of child combatantsIt also directed the court administration to give priority to the case in the hearing process.
The Supreme Court has issued a show cause notice against Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai over the use of children in the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency.
A single bench of Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla asked Dahal and Bhattarai, the then supreme commander of the Maoist combatants and the chief of "people's government," respectively, to furnish in writing whether they recruited child soldiers. "The defendants have 15 days to respond to the court," Bimal Poudel, the court spokesman, told the Post. The bench also directed the court administration to give priority to the case in the hearing process.
The court, however, refused to issue an interim order against Dahal and Bhattarai.
The petitioners had demanded an interim order to recognise them as child combatants and provide them with reparation, compensation and justice.
They also had demanded an order to suspend Dahal from his prime ministerial responsibilities until the final verdict.
As many as nine former Maoist child soldiers led by Bista, the founding chair of the Discharged People’s Liberation Army, moved the Supreme Court after no steps were taken to give them justice through the transitional justice process. The Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act and its amendment bill under consideration in the federal parliament have not incorporated their concerns.
The final hearing on the petition will begin after Dahal and Bhattarai submit their written clarification.
The petitioners have claimed that the Maoist leaders had committed war crimes by recruiting children in the armed conflict. They have demanded an investigation into the matter through a tribunal, as was done in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
In the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, the petitioners’ lawyers claimed that if the former child soldiers don't get justice domestically, their issue would be internationalised. As no attempts have been made so far to address their concerns, it was necessary for the court to intervene, they argued.
During the verification for army integration conducted by UNMIN in 2007, thousands of Maoist fighters, including Bista, had been disqualified for being children.
Among the 4,008 combatants who did not qualify for integration, 2,973 were verified as minors by the UN agency. It also found the remaining 1,035 were late recruits who 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 Rs500,000 and Rs800,000 each to the combatants who chose voluntary retirement and return home. However, those who were disqualified didn’t get any substantial support, except for a few thousand rupees from the UN.
Tuesday's order comes at a time when another insurgency-era petition against Dahal is sub-judice in the apex court.
The victims of the insurgency have registered a petition demanding that Dahal be prosecuted based on his statement that he would take the responsibility for 5,000 of the 17,000 deaths from the 1996-2006 insurgency. The final hearing on the petition is due.