Former Maoist rebels and security forces who committed torture, killings and other crimes during Nepal's decade-long civil war could be granted amnesty under a new legislation approved by parliament.
Lawmakers late Friday passed a bill in parliament to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared, aimed at healing wounds from the conflict.
The legislation had drawn fire before its passage from UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who warned earlier that amnesties for serious abuses would "weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace in Nepal".
Under the legislation's provisions, those found guilty of serious crimes during hearings by the commissions could receive a full pardon, Maoist lawmaker Ram Narayan Bidari said.
The bill was passed by a minimum two-thirds majority.
"The commissions will investigate cases of war-time crimes … and recommend whether they qualify for amnesty or not," Bidari said yesterday.
The commissions will examine all pending war-crimes cases and decide whether to forward them to a special court to be set up under the new legislation.
"Even if cases have been filed in court or police investigations are underway, now these cases will be brought under the new commissions," Bidari said.
The conflict between Maoist guerrillas and the state ended in 2006, leaving more than 16,000 dead. Rebels, soldiers and police were accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes and torture.
Victims' rights groups have accused politicians of bowing to Maoist lawmakers' demands to include an amnesty provision in the bill, despite recommendations from a government-appointed panel against one.
Any amnesty offer would still need the victims' approval, according to the bill, which will now be forwarded to President Ram Baran Yadav for his signature.