Monthly Coupon

Friday, September 29, 2023

US visa policy for Bangladesh causes worries for all


Fresh US Visa policy announced recently to be on the ‘red list’ of individuals with ruling and opposition parties, government officials, judiciaries, and media professionals would be tagged including their immediate family members responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process.

Those who will hinder holding free, fair, credible and inclusive elections the Swords of Damocles will fall upon that individual.

Over the last two years, the US has maintained pressure on Sheikh Hasina, the world’s longest-serving women Prime Minister, urging her to ensure a free and fair election in upcoming national polls expected in the first week of January 2024.

Since December 2021, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the top officials of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police unit targeting crime and terrorism, which has been accused of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Hasina at a press conference in May retorted why should her government be afraid of being sanctioned by foreign countries. “Why should we be sanctioned,” she lamented.

The visa policy has indeed made shivers run through the spines of the Awami League, ‘golden boys’ (pro-government delinquent students and youths], and civil and police administration.

While the critics, dissidents and ‘aam janata’ (mango people) of the regime are rejoicing, the visa policy seems to have cut across all tiers of the government and ruling parties.

Political analyst Badiul Alam Majumder said: “I see this restriction as a preventive measure. This could avert efforts by individuals to rig elections in their favour,” he told Reuters.

However, anguish and frustration were visible in the body language of the people in power.

Well, a few weeks ago, the ruling party leaders, members, activists, and cheerleaders among all professional bodies were excited and shared pleasant posts of the selfie photos of Sheikh Hasina and US President Joe Biden at the G-20 Summit in New Delhi.

The confidence of the sycophants and partisan government officials, including police and district administration further heightened after the news of Hasina attended a banquet reception hosted by Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

When the Bangladesh Prime Minister was in New York, her government in Dhaka was informed of the implementation of the visa policy by the US Administration.

Earlier, on 3 May the US Administration informed Bangladesh that it would announce a policy for restricting visas to those who would obstruct the democratic election process or be part of such action.

Then on 24 May US Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally announced the decision and said the “[visa] policy to lend our support to all those seeking to advance democracy in Bangladesh.”

On 22 September, the US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the visa restrictions had started to be implemented on Bangladeshi individuals.

After the US announced its new visa policy, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen hoped that the new visa policy would help Bangladesh hold free and fair elections.

The US State Department in a statement said that it was “heartened” that the Bangladesh government welcomed its decision to impose visa restrictions on those who undermine the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

In describing actions that impeded the election process, the US mentioned vote rigging, threatening voters, restoring to violence to obstruct people’s freedom to assemble and their right to hold peaceful gatherings, and other actions that prevented political parties, voters, the civil society or the news media from expressing their views.

In response, the Bangladesh foreign ministry issued a statement, “The government apparatus will take necessary measures to prevent and address any unlawful practices or interference … to compromise the smooth and participatory conduct of the elections.”

“The electoral process will remain under strict vigilance, including by international observers as accredited by the Election Commission,” the statement added.

Walla, overnight the hell has broken loose! The troll armies, digital mercenaries, and lie factories — weapons of the government in collaboration with recruits from Awami League and Chhatra League, both at home and abroad began to shred the US Visa policy.

The wolf warriors unleashed a smear campaign against the US Administration. Even the US Embassy in Dhaka and Ambassador Peter Haas were not spared.

The US Embassy and the Ambassador were showered with threatening messages. Former Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik demanded the US Ambassador should be expelled from the country.

A ‘golden boy’ Siddique Nazmul Alam, former general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra [Student] League (BCL) posted a status on his verified Facebook page: ‘We are seriously concerned about your actions and you have already crossed your limits in Bangladesh. Remember, this time is not 1975, it’s 2023.’

Investigative journalist in exile Zulkarnain Saer Sami tweets: Regrettably, recent events have witnessed the @USAmbBangladesh becoming the target of unjustified criticism from various groups and individuals with close ties to the Bangladeshi government. These individuals have resorted to the use of social media to abuse him [US Ambassador Peter Haas], [and] derogatory comments have been made about the ambassador on multiple television programs.

For the second time, US Ambassador Haas expressed fears for the physical security of his embassy staff and the embassy itself, said in an interview with a Channel 24 TV network on 23rd September.

Once the visa restriction begins to be implemented, besides the United States, the names of individuals and family members will be on the red list category by Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand.

The red-listed individual possibly may only perform Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia and pilgrimages to Ajmer in India – nowhere else to go, commented political historian and writer Mohiuddin Ahmad.

Recently, Dr Momen in a signed article published in a Bangladesh English press on 27 September 2023 writes: “Anchored in our shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law, the relations between Bangladesh and the USA have evolved over the past 52 years into a robust partnership characterised as dynamic, multifaceted and forward-looking. Like in any matured relationship, we collaborate on areas where we have alignment in our views and agree to disagree where you don’t.”

The article deliberately avoided the diplomatic tension between Dhaka and Washington. The article does not mention a word about the much-debated visa policy, sanctions on RAB, etcetera, etcetera.

First published in the Northeast News, 29 September 2023

Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. A media rights defender with the Reporters Without Borders (@RSF_inter). Recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at; Twitter: @saleemsamad

Monday, September 25, 2023

Not just Khalistanis, Canada refuses to deport assassin of Sheikh Mujib of Bangladesh


A recent diplomatic rift between Canada and India over Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian-Indian and leader of an outlawed Khalistan killed by unknown assailants at a Sikh temple in Surrey in the province of British Columbia in mid-June has dominated news headlines.

After four months, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suddenly stood up the House of Commons at Parliament Hill and told lawmakers in Ottawa that his government possessed “credible” allegations which pointed fingers toward Indian intelligence potential link to the assassination.

As political historian Mohiuddin Ahmad says, Canada came out in the public domain regarding the allegations against India. But on the other hand, Canada has never made public the Chinese interference and their covert activities.

Canada allows hate speech by radical Sikhs in the name of freedom of speech and expression, which is not only a double standard but a hypocritical government, remarked Ahmed.

Canada’s allies are still quiet! Trudeau expects condemnation from the West while asking India to cooperate on the murder of confessed extremists for an independent Khalistan. The anti-Indian terror campaign for a separate territory for the Sikhs has been aided and abetted by the dreaded Pakistan spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

Well, his government has yet to share evidence blaming India behind Nijjar’s death, who was chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and is unlikely to get ‘cooperation’ from New Delhi. Ottawa has refused to extradite a couple of “most-wanted” Sikhs for crimes committed in India and elsewhere.

In a tit-for-tat expelling spy agency officials under diplomatic cover from each other country.

An Indian born Ashok Swain @ashoswai, Professor at Uppsala University, Sweden tweets: “Modi has made Canada, India’s new Pakistan!”

Pierre Trudeau (father of Justin Trudeau) turned down India’s request to hand over a Sikh militant named Talwinder Singh Parmar, the head of the terrorist organisation.

The ‘person of interest’ has been blamed for placing a bomb on an Air India flight in 1985. The bomb exploded midair, killing 329 people, 268 of them Canadian citizens.

Millions of immigrants who adopted Canada as their new home, do not know that Canada is a haven for Nazi war criminals and other wanted criminals living with impunity.

The politicians and former officials of their home countries [list of countries withheld for obvious reason] have been laundering money accumulated from loot, corruption and illegal cartels with a “no question asked policy” of Canada for new arrivals.

Nearly a thousand suspects indicted for war crimes, according to the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals by Justice Jules Deschênes (1985-1986) are believed to be living in Canada.

The Royal Commission was able to establish that identified Nazi war criminals, for crimes committed in Germany and marauding Nazi occupation forces during World War II were given permanent residency. The Nazi war criminals brought huge wealth looted from Europe and especially from Jews.

The book ‘Unauthorized Entry: The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1946-1956’ by Howard Margolian published in 2000 brings fresh waves among Canadians what the war crimes advocacy groups, the media, and even a royal commission have suggested that Canada has given refuge to such criminals.

On the recommendation of the Commission, Canada enacted the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, 2000. Under the new legislation, one Rwandan immigrant was found guilty of committing genocide and sentenced to life in prison in May 2009.

The Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Programme investigated 200 perpetrators currently residing in Canada.

Notwithstanding India’s repeated requests over the years to extradite the “most wanted” extremists, who have harmed India, Canada decided not to comply and gave any explanation.

On the other hand, Bangladesh had also made requests over 20 years to deport the ‘most wanted’ army officer S.H.M.B. Nur Chowdhury, held responsible for the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the independence hero of Bangladesh in a military putsch on 15 August 1975. The 73-year-old fugitive has been living in Canada since 1996.

“That’s why he is safe in Canada,” writes Charlie Gillis, a Canadian journalist, “The assassin among us.”

Nur told a state broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) denying the allegation of taking part in the murder of Bangabandhu and said as a junior military officer he obeyed orders of his superiors.

Sheikh Mujib’s daughter, present Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina pleaded with her counterpart Justin Trudeau at several meetings on the sideline at global events to deport her father’s assassin. Her appeal fell on deaf ears though.

A new Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Heather Cruden in September 2011 in an explosive statement said that “Canada will not expel any suspected criminal to face a possible execution abroad.”

“Our government has a clear policy that we cannot extradite people to a country where there is [a] death sentence,” she told reporters in Dhaka.

The diplomat has rekindled a long-running dispute between Canada and Bangladesh, during which Bangladeshi officials have at times accused Canada of giving refuge to the most wanted fugitive for 27 years.

Canadian Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Ministry of Foreign Affairs sings the same tune. A policy statement says something like this: “Bangladesh judiciary is not independent and deportation or extradition of a certain person will jeopardise his safety and his security would be compromised by a politically motivated justice system.”

“There are possibilities of being harmed when the person is forced to return to his country of origin.”

Canada provided a typical argumentative argument on the request for the deportation of Chowdhury, who was indicted in absentia for the murder of Sheikh Mujib and has been sentenced to the death penalty by a special tribunal in Dhaka in 1998 and declared him a fugitive. His name appears in the red list of Interpol.

Canadian media have intermittently kept the issue alive. This possibly has impacted the rejection of Chowdhury’s asylum case and demand for extradition by the Bangladesh government.

All his hope to live in Canada has been dashed after all the gates of the refugee court, appeal court and higher court shut down on his face. Chowdhury’s asylum case has been denied again and again.

Shahidul Islam Mintu, founder and CEO of the first 24/7 NRB Television for the Bangladeshi diaspora in Canada has been following the case of Chowdhury.

He said the fugitive rarely ventures outside his apartment except to buy groceries. He once faced angry Bangladesh nationals who condemned him for killing Mujib and demanding punishment. He lives in seclusion in Etobicoke, Toronto.

In a brazen move, Ottawa wanted to negotiate with Washington DC to send rogue military officer AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, to a third country (preferably Canada), who swears that he didn’t play a role in the assassination of Sheikh Mujib.

Ahmed’s asylum case in Los Angeles, USA has been rejected multiple times in appeal courts. US authorities decided to deport him, which was indeed a surprise for Bangladesh.

The fugitive was deported to Bangladesh and the verdict was executed by hanging for the crime.

On 29 May 2007, Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice addressing the Speaker of Parliament urged Ms Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that a “former Bangladesh diplomat with a Canadian connection is facing imminent deportation from the U.S. to Bangladesh where he will be executed after a political trial was held in absentia,” as documented in the Parliament Hill online archive.

“Given this humanitarian issue and that Mr Mohiuddin Ahmed has immediate family in Canada, would the minister be prepared to review this case, to provide Mr Ahmed with the protection this case would warrant and help secure the suspension of his deportation until this case can be reviewed?”

However, Finley assured the members at Parliament Hill that Canada has “one of the most welcoming and fair immigration systems in the world.”

Commonly most people know that hundreds of international victims of torture have found safety in Canada including dissidents, opposition, journalists, writers and academicians.

Nevertheless, this statement has been contradicted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International. A damning joint report blames Canada to have incarcerated thousands of people (between the ages of 15 and 83), including those with disabilities, on immigration-related grounds every year in often abusive conditions.

“Canada’s abusive immigration detention system is in stark contrast to the rich diversity and the values of equality and justice that Canada is known for globally,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Of course, Canada had forced several immigrants to their country of origin, who fled the country after they were brutalised and tortured.

In the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen was a victim of rendition and tortured in Syria after the United States turned him over as an Al-Qaeda suspect in 2002.

Arar, a telecommunication engineer was boarding a flight back home to Canada from Tunisia at JFK Airport in New York. He was detained for 12 days in New York and was secretly transferred to Syria.

US authorities alleged he was a member of the international terror network Al Qaeda and said they acted on data supplied by Canadian police.

Amnesty says in Syria, he was held in degrading and inhumane conditions, interrogated, and tortured for a year.

After media and rights groups outcry, Canada was forced to bring him back and had to pay a compensation of $10.5 million.

Similar incidents occurred with dissident Noura Al-Jizawi, a Syrian born immigrant in Canada who was flagged as a security risk when she applied for a Permanent Resident (PR) card. Also, an Egyptian-born Joseph Attar, a Canadian citizen returned home serving 15 years imprisonment in Egypt on spying charges.

In February 2007, Ottawa formally apologised for the role officials may have played in the torture and abuse of three Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. A commission of inquiry found that Canadian officials were indirectly responsible for what happened to the three men.

Possibly for now, Nur Chowdhury’s prayer to Allah has kept him away from being guillotined for his crime. The diplomatic engagement to bring the rogue military officer back to Dhaka to face the music of justice remains frustrating for the coming years will be in deep freeze.

First published in the India Narrative, 25 September 2023

(Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. Views expressed are personal. Twitter: @saleemsamad; Email:

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Will Selfie Diplomacy Reset Relations with the United States?


US president Joe Biden (L), Saima Wazed (C) and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (R)


Most political observers are curious to know, what’s next after United States President Joe Biden and the world’s longest-serving women Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, both posed for selfie shots in New Delhi recently.

The two leaders met during a break at the G-20 Summit in Delhi in early September. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Abul Kalam Abdul Momen admitted to the media that he approached Biden and sought his consent that his prime minister wished to take a photo with the leader of a super-power.

In a candid confession to television media, Dr. Momen said Biden promptly agreed with a smile. Hasina accompanied by her only daughter Saima Wazed approached for a selfie spree with Biden.

A grin of excitement from Biden, Hasina and Saima were reflected in the shots.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) press wing made urgent requests on WhatsApp group of embedded journalists accompanying the PM’s media entourage to publish the selfie photos. Within a few hours, the selfies were splashed on the online edition of major news organisations. Why this hullabaloo of selfies?

Hasina’s ranting against the USA came to a grinding halt. The following day, the governing Awami League party general secretary Obaidul Quader shot an arrow toward the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and told cheering crowds that “BNP shocked seeing Biden taking selfie with Sheikh Hasina.”

For months, Hasina’s political rhetoric against America hit hard on its foreign policy towards third-world countries, especially Bangladesh and pressure on the issue of human rights records, labour rights and vote fraud which severely dented Bangladesh’s image.

She once said that America proposed to establish a naval base at 8 Sq. Km of Saint Martin’s island in the southwest of the country on the Bay of Bengal. Her denial of such a proposal has made Washington determined not to see her (Hasina) in power again.

She also went a step forward and said the USA has struck a deal with BNP to establish a military base at a ‘critically endangered’ coral island. The base was to keep watch over a huge swatch of the Bay of Bengal, which merges with the Indian Ocean to monitor merchant vessels and battleships of China, which indeed an absurd proposition, says the former Ambassador to Washington.

Meanwhile, intermittent visits of US officials, the European Union and the United Nations call on the government to hold free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in the upcoming January 2024 general elections and to respect human rights compliance.

On selfie diplomacy, when asked whether the USA relations with Bangladesh is likely to thaw. Humayun Kabir disagrees and said a tête-à-tête between two heads of government and photoshoots usually will not make any change in US foreign policy.

The policy is prepared by a team of think tanks, consisting of seasoned diplomats and international security experts, and then the US State Department draws a road map with individual countries and Bangladesh is no exception.

Earlier, Washington threatened to restrict the issuance of visas to travel to the USA of any official, judiciary, individual, as well as governing and opposition responsible for or complicit in undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

Her government has reiterated that the next elections would be “free, fair and violence-free elections”. The foreign dignitaries visiting Bangladesh and listening to stakeholders including opposition leaders are not convinced of the government’s commitment to an inclusive election.

The crackdown on opposition and intimidation by henchmen of Awami League often pounce upon opposition rallies, while the police remain a silent spectator.

Several thousand opposition members were arrested and thousands are languishing in prison for months. The New York Times writes that the opposition was deliberately targeted to punish them for demanding a ‘caretaker government’ to oversee the elections as they have lost hope in Hasina’s government to hold credible general elections.

On the other hand, she is visibly annoyed over 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates who have urged the government to suspend legal proceedings against Muhammad Yunus.

In an open letter dated 27 August, leaders, including former US President Barack Obama, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than 100 Nobel laureates, said the case of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus. “We are alarmed that he has recently been targeted by what we believe to be continuous judicial harassment,” the letter read.

The UN also voiced alarm at using legal proceedings in the South Asian country to intimidate and harass rights advocates and civil society leaders, including Yunus.

“While Yunus will have the opportunity to defend himself in court, we are concerned that smear campaigns against him, often emanating from the highest levels of government, risk undermining his right to a fair trial and due process in line with international standards, the letter said.”

Angry Hasina said that such a statement challenges the integrity and credibility of the judiciary system of a country and remarked that the law should take its path in the case of Yunus.

Without naming Hillary Clinton, the former Foreign Minister of the USA, she invited her to come to Dhaka and defend Yunus against his “corruption” and robbing financial benefits of the staff of Grameen Telecom.

Law Minister Anisul Huq told Deutsche Welle of Germany that the lawsuits were not meant to harass the Nobel laureate. “Those who faced injustice sought remedy at the court. It’s their right as citizens of Bangladesh. It will be decided at the court trial whether he committed any crime,” Huq concluded.

Some say Hasina became infuriated when Yunus announced he would form a King’s party in 2007 when a military-backed caretaker government took charge of the country.

However, the plan to formally float the King’s party fell flat in a few weeks of its announcement. Since then Yunus never showed any interest in politics.

In yet another political development, a fresh global outcry was caused after sending two prominent human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan of Odhikar for two years.

They were accused 10 years ago of exaggerating the number of deaths during the police midnight crackdown on Islamist organisation Hefazat-e-Islam during a seize of downtown Dhaka on 5 & 6 May 2013.

Human Rights Watch reported at least 58 people killed in police action, Amnesty International said 44 died, government claims only 11, while Odhikar said 61 were killed.

Besides, nearly a hundred eminent citizens and several international rights organisations, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, United Nations Human Rights and the United States called on the government to release the defenders, which the UN said: “Such reprisals also have a chilling effect and may deter others from reporting on human rights issues and cooperating with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms.”

“Have you ever seen a regime so insecure that they feel more threatened for critiquing the government,” political historian Mohiuddin Ahmad poses the question.

Whenever or whoever raises the issues of human rights abuse, or holding of free and fair elections, the government starts shaking and scores of pro-government cyber warrior launches misinformation and disinformation campaign, remarked Ahmad.

As China and the US jostle for influence in Asia, French President Emmanuel Macron offered an alternative to Bangladesh during a recent short visit to Dhaka.

While the United States and China compete for influence in the wider region, Macron has pushed France as an alternative partner for Bangladesh, writes Arafatul Islam of German Deutsche Welle.

Sadia Aktar Korobi, a researcher on international affairs and studying at the University of Dhaka writes in the Fair Observer that India sees Bangladesh as both an economic and strategic investment, other major powers have their own goals with Dhaka.

Obviously, the US has shown a keen interest in Bangladesh, but its policies are complicated by Washington’s ever-consistent need to interfere in the internal matters of others, says the researcher Korobi.

On one hand, the US wants Bangladesh to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to restrain China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. The growing frustration caused by incidents like this is pushing Bangladesh more towards China and India, the researcher concludes.

First published in, 19 September 2023

Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. A media rights defender with the Reporters Without Borders (@RSF_inter). Recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at; Twitter: @saleemsamad

Friday, September 01, 2023

No Justice for Victims Under Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister


Nepal’s decade-long Maoist insurgency ended 16 years ago, but war crimes victims are still seeking justice. The government, headed by the same party leader that carried out the insurgency, has largely refused to prosecute alleged war criminals. If the international community does not change its tack, this situation will doubtlessly continue.

Once popularly known as the Himalayan Kingdom, Nepal transformed by fits and starts from a Hindu nation-state to a secular, democratic state through the 20th and early 21st centuries. From 1996 to 2006, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), or CPN (MC), waged a bloody insurgency against the royal government. The civil war took some 17,800 lives. In 2008, Nepal finally abolished thousand-year-old monarchy and the official Hindu kingdom, introducing secularism and a fragile democracy, for better or worse.

The current Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, began his third non-consecutive term in December 2022. He was and is the leader of the CPN (MC) since its founding. He has recently refuted allegations that his party recruited and used child combatants during the insurgency and the years of the peace process. Dahal made the claim in an apologetic response to a petition filed at the supreme court in Kathmandu. The petition claimed that child combatants were used during the Maoist insurgency. Dahal pointed to the documents of the peace process, insisting that the term “child soldiers” was not used.

By documents, he meant the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, the Interim Constitution, the 2015 constitution and other authentic documents, where “child soldiers” had indeed not been mentioned.

Nearly three decades after the Maoists launched their armed struggle on 13 February 1996, Nepal is still haunted after 27 years of conflict and violence.

Of the 17,800 Nepalis, including civilians and armed forces, who were killed during the conflict, Dahal admitted to being responsible for only (if that word can even be used) 5,000 of the deaths.

Decades later, victims still seek justice

Dahal has left many wondering what it was all for, writes Sonia Awale in Nepali Times. When heinous crimes against humanity including summary executions, torture, disappearances and war rape by both sides go unaddressed and unpunished, it creates a sense of impunity for unpunished war crimes, she wrote.

Families of the victims worry that with the Maoists now in the governing coalition with their erstwhile nemesis, the Nepali Congress, justice may never be served.

Suman Adhikari’s father was brutally killed by the Maoist foot soldiers. He was a popular school teacher at Panini Sanskrit Secondary School in Duradanda in Lamjung district. His crime? Refusing to contribute a quarter of his salary to the so-called people’s war fund.

Adhikari and his family members petitioned the independent Nepal Human Rights Commission (NHRC) but have little hope in justice for the murder. They pled with the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The members of these latter two commissions were selected on the governing party’s recommendation.

Adhikari believes that both of the commissions are more interested in letting war criminals off the hook than in providing justice and protecting the perpetrators. He is worried by reports “that they want a blanket amnesty for all war crimes by both sides in the conflict,” he lamented.

In another case, nearly 3000 child soldiers were disqualified for integration into the Nepal Army by the United Nations Missions in Nepal (UNMIN) during the verification process in 2007. After being blocked by UNMIN, several of the child soldiers demanded adequate compensation and also demanded punishment for Dahal and his second-in-command, Baburam Bhattarai. The aggrieved young persons claimed that the Maoist leaders committed war crimes using children in the armed conflict.

These thousands of victims are still waiting for justice 17 years after the signing of the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement. What they need is an investigation through a tribunal, like the trials in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia. The government’s unresponsiveness has lost it the victims’ trust.

On October 15, 2020, the NHRC published a major report evaluating government responses to its recommendations over the last two decades. The commission said that, out of 286 individuals whom it said should face legal action, only 30 had been held accountable. The list of those identified includes 16 civil servants, 98 policemen, 85 Nepal Army personnel and 65 Maoists.

Of a total of 1,195 recommendations made by the commission over the last 20 years, the government failed to act on half, and only 163 recommendations were fully implemented.

A mentality of violence lives on

The Maoist insurgency has profoundly shaped Nepali political psychology. The Maoist rebels still believe in the ideology of violent revolution to bring about what they term “people’s government.” Poor governance, corruption, government apathy towards integrated socio-economic development and, most importantly, political instability have contributed to the continuing growth of Maoism, says researcher Smruti S. Pattanaik, writing for Strategic Analysis Journal.

Former insurgents continue to address political rallies and blatantly boast that they killed 5,000 people. People like Adhikari and the former child soldiers are being ignored while those responsible for conflict-era crimes are walking openly in broad daylight.

Dahal’s decision to declare February 13 as a national holiday marking the start of the “people’s war” in 1996 “sparked outrage in Nepal’s cybersphere and brought conflict survivors out into the streets,” according to Nepali Times. Glorification of the violence continues to come from the highest levels of government.

Meanwhile, Dahal has claimed that he will complete the transitional justice process. In a statement on November 20, 2021 English op-ed in The Kathmandu Post, he termed Nepal’s peace process a successful “home-grown model” that avoided heavy-handed Western intervention.

We must not ignore Nepal or expect the government to police itself of its own volition. I will conclude with the words of an editorial from Nepali Times:

The international community, which was once so vociferous on transitional justice, has suddenly gone quiet.

Nepal’s conflict ended without a victor or vanquished. The former enemies are now the state. Neither they, nor the police, nor Nepal Army generals or former guerrilla commanders, want to rake up wartime atrocities. They have colluded to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as a Commission on Enforced Disappearances, both of which can offer amnesty to those found guilty. If something is not done, the victims of brutality may be waiting forever.

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

First published in Fair Observer, United States, 01 SEPTEMBER 2023

Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent columnist and media rights defender based in Bangladesh. He became an Ashoka Fellow in 1991, and won the Hellman-Hammett Award in 2005. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad