KATHMANDU, July 14: After eight months of circumstantial investigations, the Nepal Army (NA) has given a clean chit to Major Niranjan Basnet, who was sent back from a UN peacekeeping mission in Chad last December for his alleged involvement in human rights violation in the Maina Sunar case.
The Army Court Of Inquiry has concluded that Basnet is “innocent” and that he was returned by the UN “against all international norms and regulations.”
It has been learnt that a decision to this effect was endorsed by the Defense Ministry recently. NA had sent a letter to the ministry two months back defending Niranjan and requesting that his case be withdrawn immediately.
NA has defended Basnet on the basis of the Military Act 1959 and the then Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance 2002 (TADA).
After several rounds of questioning, the three-member Court of Inquiry found that Basnet was returned from the UN mission in a humiliating manner, accompanied by escorts, something only done in cases of breach of discipline.
NA has also written to the UN, objecting to Basnet´s return without prior consultations and in blatant oversight of a military court verdict given in the Sunar case in 2005.
Asked to comment, Major General BA Kumar Sharma, chief of the NA Legal Department, said, “Even going by the definition of the Military Act itself, it is clear that the Army was acting against a common enemy then and functioning under TADA,” adding, “Therefore there is no case against Basnet.”
NA has defended Basnet´s case as per Section 61 of the 1959 Act and Section 2.1 of TADA, which states that a suspect can be taken into custody for interrogation. In addition, the army has cited Article 24 (1) of the 1959 Act which states that offenses involving army personnel when TADA is in force cannot be treated in a civilian court.
It has also quoted the Interim Constitution Section 24 (6) on fundamental rights, according to which a person cannot be subjected to double jeopardy, or tried twice for the same offense.
“The verdicts of our military courts are recognized internationally, so the UN has flouted all norms in sending Basnet back,” a highly-placed NA source told myrepublica.com. The source added, “This is also an attempt to discredit our institution as Basnet´s case is a closed chapter.”
Basnet was patrol commander in Kavre district in February 2004, when Sunar was brought to the barracks for questioning on suspicion of her being a Maoist informant. She died in custody.
A General Court Martial in September 2005 found that three other officers — Bobby Khatri (Basnet´s commanding officer) and Captains Amrit Pun and Sunil Adhikari — were guilty of various offenses. But Basnet was acquitted as he had only handed over Sunar to higher officials.
Basnet served with the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 2006 before returning to an assignment in Nepal. He was sent back from the UN mission for Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) in December last year.
Kavre District Court had ordered Basnet´s suspension in September last year on the basis of a case filed by Sunar´s mother.