| King under fire
Kathmandu, Nov. 20 (Reuters): An official investigation blamed Nepal’s isolated King Gyanendra today for the shooting and killing of pro-democracy protesters earlier this year and said he should be punished.
The panel’s findings, unprecedented in the history of Nepal where the king has traditionally been revered as a god, also blamed 201 other politicians, royalist ministers, civil servants, army and police officers for human rights violations, abuse of authority and corruption in the bloody clampdown.
The government says at least 22 people were killed and more than 5,000 wounded when security forces confronted protesters who eventually forced the monarch to relinquish absolute power and restore democracy. The panel said the number of wounded exceeded 9,000.
“The government and parliament must make the required laws and punish all members of the then council of ministers including the king,” said Harihar Birahi, a member of the panel headed by retired supreme court judge Krishna Jung Rayamajhi. There was no immediate comment from the palace.
Under the existing constitution, the monarch of the impoverished Himalayan nation enjoys special protection and cannot face punishment for his actions.
But Birahi said the king had violated that same constitution by sacking the government so should no longer enjoy privileges under the charter.
Others blamed by the panel could face charges ranging from abuse of power to the killing of demonstrators, he said.
On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra fired the government, assumed absolute power, jailed politicians and gagged the media. He said the move was aimed at crushing an anti-monarchy Maoist revolt that has killed at least 13,000 people since 1996.
But in April this year, weeks of often bloody street protests organised by political parties and supported by the Maoists forced the king to hand back power to the politicians. “No one should interfere with the human rights of the people on any pretext. No one is above the people,” said Birahi.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who received a copy of the panel’s findings today, has already vowed to implement the recommendations. But analysts doubted the government would punish the monarch.
“In the past, the government has not been able to take action against wrongdoers,” said Lok Raj Baral of the Nepal Centre for Strategic Studies, a private think-tank.
“Generally, people don’t have faith in the government that it will take action against the king.” The panel, formed in May, interrogated nearly 300 people, but the king failed to reply to its questions.
Maoist rebels plan to sign a comprehensive peace deal with the multi-party government tomorrow and join a new interim cabinet by December 1.