KATMANDU, Nepal – A government commission investigating Nepal's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators blamed the violence on King Gyanendra and recommended punishing him, officials said Monday.
The findings by the panel investigating the crackdown are a further blow for the king — who has seen his status plummet since the uprising forced him to give up absolute power — and an ominous portent for the centuries-old institution of the monarchy in this Himalayan nation.
After receiving the commission's report, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala vowed to punish those held culpable for the crackdown that also saw hundreds injured and hundreds detained, with some alleging torture.
Commission member Harihar Birahi said that as chairman of the Cabinet at the time of the crackdown, the king was responsible for the harsh treatment of the protesters, who eventually forced Gyanendra to cede power and reinstate parliament after 14 months of direct rule by the monarch.
Holding Gyanendra guilty thrusts the future of the Nepali monarchy under the spotlight. The landmark case marked the first time a monarch faced investigation in this country where kings — believed by tradition to be reincarnations of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu — have held near absolute power.
The commission did not recommend a punishment and Nepal currently has no laws concerning how to punish crimes committed by a king.
A yet-to-be elected constituent assembly is expected to decide on the monarchy's fate with centrist parties favoring a constitutional monarchy with a ceremonial role for the king, while the Maoist rebels — who are in peace talks with the government — favor abolishing it entirely.
It also creates a thorny problem for the legal system on how to prosecute Gyanendra.
Analysts debated the issue and many called on the government to quickly enact appropriate laws. "Only then can there be some action or result," said Dwarika Nath Dhungel, a legal analyst.
However, others said he could be tried under regular criminal law.
"Since the case involved murder of so many people, the case is a criminal case," said Madhav Baskota of the Nepal Bar Association.
Gyanendra has already been stripped of his powers, 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 2006 were interrogated by the commission. It also questioned several other ministers and top government and security officials.
The commission also sent written questions to Gyanendra, but the king did not respond, giving no reason.
Birahi said the investigation focussed on official misuse of power, state funds and human rights abuses during the king's authoritarian rule.
Besides Gyanendra, the commission also found another 201 officials in the king's administration responsible for the bloody crackdown.
They included the chiefs of police and the armed forces. The chiefs of the civil and armed police have been suspended while the army chief has retired.
Regular Nepalis welcomed the findings.
"So many people were killed and injured on the king's orders, he should be tried for each and every one of these crimes," said Rajesh Shrestha, a university student.
Gyanendra's reign has been filled with turmoil that began on his ascent to power in 2001 following the death of his brother, King Birendra, in a bizarre palace massacre.
After becoming king, he remained unpopular with the people. Taking direct control of the government in 2005 eroded most of his remaining support.