Nepal: Restless move for truth and justice
October 22 2012: The peace accord that ended Nepal's armed conflict called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation commission to tackle impunity and promote reconciliation. Yet, six years on, victims of Nepal's conflict are still waiting for a commission to be set up. Ambika Pokhrel, Insight on Conflict's Local Correspondent for Nepal, looks at why the process has taken so long.
The Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) which ended the conflict in Nepal in 2006, clearly called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate human rights abuses and create an atmosphere for reconciliation.
The CPA also had provision of forming a Disappeared Inquiry Commission. Large numbers of people were disappeared during the armed conflict and it was felt the TRC might not effectively handle all of the cases.
The CPA was signed over six years ago, yet neither commission has been established. Conflict victims had little hope of justice when Constituent Assembly (CA) was functioning. Agendas of the victims were completely over-shadowed following the dissolution of the CA, and the political crisis that followed, in May 2012.
Divided victims’ groups
Organisations formed by the victims themselves have been trying to keep their agendas alive. However, many organisations have been criticised for not performing effectively due to nature of their formation.
Some organisations’ have been formed by those who were victimized by the then rebels. Others were formed by those victimised by the state. Yet others have been formed by victims of sides.
It can be argued that the conflict victims have been divided themselves based on by whom they were victimized. The division has led to the victims’ agendas becoming fragmented and subsequently losing strength from the movement.
Desperate need for a TRC
The term reconciliation generally includes healing, truth, justice and reparation. Beside these, forgiveness and amnesty are also associated in course of reconciliation. In the absence of a TRC, the victims has been deprived from healing of trauma, knowing truth, getting justice and reparation.
It is not only the victims that are losing from the lack of a TRC. It is also the perpetrators – those not engaged in serious violations human rights and humanitarian laws – who have been deprived of forgiveness or amnesty, subsequently leaving them to live in the legacy of the more serious perpetrators.
Finding an acceptable legal basis
The government of Nepal had prepared the laws to establish the TRC, and tabled before parliament some 5 years ago. Some of the parliamentarians criticised the bill inside the parliament. The bill was also condemned outside, though the bill was not made public officially.
The bill included an article that declared all crimes and violations conducted in the course of conflict were considered ‘political’. This implies that serious human rights violations are considered the acts of politically motivated and perpetrators would not be accountable for their wrongdoings. The criticism forced the bill to be sent back for further discussion.
Successive governments have kept silent on the formation the TRC and the Disappeared Inquiry Commission, despite many efforts from the civil society and the victims.
Most recently, the current government has suddenly submitted the TRC bill for the President’s approval, bypasssing the standard legislative procedure. Human Rights activists and the family of conflict victims denounced the government’s plan for submitting the bill to the president, arguing that the bill was prepared without consulting civil society, political parties, and victims.
They further argue that the bill has such provisions that the perpetrators who were involved in the most serious human rights violations will easily escape trial.
International organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurist and RETRIAL, sent a letter to the President to criticising the way in which the government has tried to pass the bill. They also raised concerns that the bill will not address the truth, justice and accountability the Nepalese people demand.
Controversially, an attempt by some European ambassadors to Nepal to meet with the President and appeal to not to approve the bill was not allowed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal. The attempt to meet to the President was also criticized on the ground of undermining the diplomatic norms.
Is the government promoting impunity?
Despite national and international pressures for formation of a TRC which provides justice to the victims, and accountability for those involved in the most serious human rights violations, the government seems be promoting impunity through its acts and decisions.
The decision to promote Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Kuber Singh Rana to chief of the Nepal’s police – Inspector General of Police (IGP) on 13 September 2012 is just one example. Kuber Singh Rana was accused of extrajudicial killing of the five young Maoist supporters while he was an Inspector of Police in Dhanusha district during conflict.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recommended taking legal action against him and providing compensation to the victims. But the government has entirely ignored the NHRC recommendations, promoted Kuber Singh Rana to AIG last year. A case was filed in the Supreme Court against the government decision for promoting him immediately after the decision. The Court dismissed the case and cleared of any wrongdoing. This cleared road for him to become the chief of the Nepal’s police.
It seems that both the conflicting parties – the state and the UCPN (M) are unwilling to establish TRC, reveal truth, ensure justice and provide reparation to the victims.
There is Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction and Local Peace Committee (LPC) at the district level for promoting peace and harmony in the country. But in the absence of a clear government policy and a TRC, these two institutions have only been involved in distributing relief packages and are completely silent on a reconciliation process.
The government has provided some compensation to the conflict victims in the name of interim relief package. Those who got killed their family members have received NPR 200,000 (US$2,500) each.
Lacking clear policy from government, civil society organisations have limited their involvement to only pressuring the government to form the TRC and the Disappeared Inquiry Commission and not to provide amnesty to the people who involved in violation of the serious human rights and humanitarian laws during the conflict.
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