Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Gyanendra behind crackdown: commission

ROYAL PROBLEM Nepal has no laws on the books that regulate the punishment of the king, as the case is the first time that a monarch has ever faced an investigation

AP , KATHMANDU

A Nepal government commission has found King Gyanendra responsible for a bloody crackdown in April against pro-democracy demonstrators that left at least 19 people dead and hundreds injured, officials said on yesterday.

A report by the commision said that the king should be punished, but the penalty to be imposed remained unclear.

Nepal has no laws concerning how to punish crimes committed by a king and the landmark case marked the first time a monarch faced investigation in a country where kings have traditionally been revered as near-deities.

The commission handed the report to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who said those found guilty in the report would be punished.

Commission member Harihar Birahi said because he was the chairman of the Cabinet at the time of the crackdown, the king was responsible for the crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Protests

The protests eventually forced the Gyanendra to cede power and reinstate parliament after 14 months of direct royal rule.

Parliament then quickly stripped Gyanendra of his powers, his command over the army and his immunity from prosecution.

Several people who worked under the king during the period of direct rule that ended in April were interrogated by the commission. It also questioned several other ministers and top government officials.

The commission also sent written questions to the Gyanendra, but the king did not respond.

Birahi said the investigation focused on official misuse of power and state funds and human rights abuses during the king's authoritarian rule.

In addition to Gyanendra, the commission also found another 201 officials serving in the king's administration responsible for the bloody crackdown.

Among the officials were the chiefs of the police and the armed forces. The chiefs of both police branches have been suspended, while the army chief has retired.

Activist

Hundreds of pro-democracy activists were also detained during the April crackdown, and some have said that they were tortured while in prison.

Meanwhile, as many as 4,500 children have been recruited by communist rebels in Nepal over the past month, a local human rights group alleged yesterday.

Thousands of children under 18 have been recruited by the rebels since Oct. 29, most of them in the past few days, said Kundan Aryal, heads of the National Coalition for Children as Zones of Peace group.

Aryal said the recruitment drive was undertaken despite the guerrillas' recent moves toward peace with the Nepalese government.

"It is in clear violation of all agreements with the government and the peace process," he said.

A statement by the UN said the world body "remains greatly concerned that even now children under 18 are still being recruited, voluntarily or forcibly, by Maoists, in violation of international standards and their own commitments."

The rebels, however, denied recruiting children as fighters: "We do not recruit children in our military wing, however, there may be some underage boys and girls joining our various organizations," said Dev Gurung, a member of the rebel's peace talks team.

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