Nepali Times
SEIRA TAMANG
Guest Column
Knowing rights from wrongs


SEIRA TAMANG


The announcement that American military personnel are in Nepal on an "ongoing regular training exercise" in the words of an embassy press release comes as no real surprise. Regardless of rhetoric, international military supplies and training are part of the international 'war for peace' strategy against the Maoists.

Strangely, though, in a land obsessed with reviews of development projects and programs, no review has been undertaken of the human rights and 'conflict' training given by donor agencies. This is important because the US military training has a poor track record on human rights. At a time when conflict specialists like Robert Gersony are making comparisons between Latin America and Nepal, with accompanying plans based on Latin American 'successes', it may be pertinent to remember that the School of Americas (SOA)-later renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooper-ation-was notorious for training military personnel soldiers and rightwing militia responsible for human rights violations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. Amnesty International (AI) states that in the 1980s and early 1990s the SOA used manuals that advocated "torture, extortion, kidnapping and execution".

RNA officers are sent to the Command and General Staff School (where one of the core courses at the SOA is also taught) and the US Army War College. While tens of thousands of officers from foreign armies train in the US, AI reports that far more receive US training in their own countries through a variety of US programs. In Nepal, the real extent of US and other donor-Nepali military engagement remains beyond real public scrutiny.

What is verifiable is the fact that while some US military training includes human rights education, it is not systematically required in most other training for foreign forces. Furthermore, the 1996 Leahy Bill which requires background screening for past human rights violations of foreign recipients of US military and police training has yet to be fully implemented with no standardised process for conducting checks. Quality background vetting, in fact, varies greatly from country to country.

In response to international human rights concerns, British and US military assistance to Nepal is said to include human rights training. Training, interactions and seminars conducted by the Human Rights Cell of the RNA include: 'Human Rights and Humanitarian Law' 22-26 July 2002 and 5-9 August 2002 'Interaction program on Human Rights' on 21 August 2002, 'Interaction program by British Army human rights training team in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj and Pokhara' 7-26 November 2002, 'Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Seminar' jointly conducted by the Judge Advocate Branches of the RNA and the US army 13-14th May 2003.

Human rights has also formed the UK's commitment to develop Nepal's Police via DfID since 1993. However, in light of reports of continued human rights violations and extra-judicial killings by the state, certain questions about the nature of military training and at the very least, the effectiveness of human rights training, needs to be raised.

There is room for legitimate questions concerning the commitment and orientation of military interventions in 'postwa&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'war for peace' and 'peace-inducing missions' in Nepal as there is elsewhere.

This must be seen in light of the Army War College's Peacekeeping Institute in Pennsylvania being closed last year with endorsement from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The rationale for the closure of the only institute dedicated to peace was belt-tightening, even though its budget was a only $1 million a year. When asked why the Pentagon refused to provide numbers of enemy combatants killed in Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

A review of human rights training and its effectiveness is called for in our struggle to move towards a post-conflict, democratic Nepal.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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