Decades and still no justiceNot a single victim has realised any form of justice or acknowledgement in the 14 years since the peace deal.
My father Muktinath Adhikari, a school teacher, was abducted and brutally killed by Maoist rebels during the decade-long conflict. After completing the death rituals, we registered a complaint with the District Police Office, Lamjung to seek justice, demanding that a thorough investigation of the killing be conducted and the perpetrators punished. Later, I also filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there has been no progress towards justice even after 19 years.
We, the conflict victims' community, have been demanding an end to the victimisation of people like us. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the government and the Maoists on November 21, 2006. During the peace talks in 2006, we lobbied with the political parties and civil society demanding a provision to formulate a truth commission. Thus, the agreement contained commitments to address the injustice and pain of the civilians who were severely victimised due to the serious human rights violations committed by the state and the rebels.
The CPA contained a commitment to revealing the whereabouts of people disappeared or killed during the war within 60 days of signing the pact. The CPA also contained a pledge to form a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission to establish peace in society, carry out relief and rehabilitate people victimised and displaced by the war. The peace accord included a commitment to set up a high-level Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to investigate the truth about serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity, and ensure the right to justice of the conflict victims, torture victims and the families of the disappeared.
The CPA included a commitment to create a record of the government, public and private buildings, lands and other properties captured during the conflict and return them immediately. We were so happy to see these commitments and provisions to address the pain and rights of the victims in the peace agreement. We were truly confident that the state would acknowledge our pain, take sincere steps to heal the pain, and make us realise justice and reparation. The National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission was never formed, and the whereabouts of the disappeared have not been revealed even in the 14 years since the CPA.
The pain, tears and blood of the conflict victims created this federal democratic republic. But every successive government after the CPA was signed has remained indifferent and insensitive towards that pain of the victims and their kin, and refused to bear the responsibility to provide guardianship and ensure justice to the voiceless victims. Each government followed the strategy of delaying, diluting and denying justice with the intention of providing immunity to the perpetrators. The transitional justice efforts in the last 14 years have not been sincere. They are cosmetic efforts designed to fool the international community that the commissions are working for justice and tire out the victims and make them forget.
The parties imposed their interests while developing transitional justice laws and forming the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). They fully ignored the state's obligations and stakeholders' concerns and collaboration. Neither the government nor the commission has a clear-cut vision, road map and plan of action to resolve the more than 66,000 complaints. The prime minister, foreign minister and government officials have been repeatedly promising to amend the laws to comply with Supreme Court verdicts and international human rights obligations. They have promised to adopt credible process commitments at the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Human Rights Council and a number of international and national forums. But this has not happened.
The families of those killed, disappeared and displaced were provided with some relief, but the victims of sexual violence and torture have received nothing. Property seized during the conflict has not been returned. There is no legal recognition of reparation as a right. The collective and individual reparative needs of the victims have been ignored. The appointment of persons accused of committing human rights violations to high posts like the speaker of the federal parliament, minister, Member of Parliament and chief of the security agencies is an example of how calls for investigation and an end to impunity have been continuously ignored.
Conflict victims have been demanding the truth, justice and reparation by adopting a credible and victim-centric process in collaboration with the stakeholders. The government issues laws and ordinances of its own interest overnight but does not take concrete steps to amend faulty provisions in the transitional justice laws and does not criminalise serious crimes. Only a few controlled consultations have been held; these were neither meaningful nor substantive in terms of addressing the issues of the conflict-affected.
The government formed the politically controlled TRC and CIEDP in 2015 through a non-transparent process. The victims have neither confidence nor collaboration in these commissions. Valuable time, efforts and resources have been misused without any tangible result for six years. It seems the government will extend the tenure of these commissions unilaterally from February 10, 2021, without amending their faulty mandate and procedure.
The commissions have been making commitments to ensure justice. But in reality, they have only received complaints and not revealed the truth of even a single violation, nor recommended reparation and prosecution. Not a single victim has realised justice in the 14 years of the CPA and the six years of the commissions. The victims are tired of the cosmetic commitments of the government and the commissions that are never implemented. Sooner or later, the government cannot escape from its responsibility to fulfil the justice rights of the conflict victims. The government has to be sensitive and sincere to address the issues of the victims, and take immediate steps to adopt a credible process to amend the laws and formulate trustworthy and independent commissions.
What do you think?
Dear reader, we’d like to hear from you. We regularly publish letters to the editor on contemporary issues or direct responses to something the Post has recently published. Please send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Please include your name, location, and a contact address so one of our editors can reach out to you.