Justice is overdueTwelve years have passed since the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the government and Maoist rebels on November 6, 2006.
Twelve years have passed since the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the government and Maoist rebels on November 6, 2006. The CPA had three main agendas—to draft the constitution, institutionalise federalism, and ensure justice to war-era victims by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). Albeit late-five years later than promised and after two elections-the Constituent Assembly finished drafting the constitution and promulgated it in 2015, which ultimately institutionalised federalism and secularism in the country. While we have welcomed and lauded these achievements, justice still eludes the victims of the violent Maoist insurgency.
During the insurgency, more than 16,000 people lost their lives and scores are still missing. The CPA had envisioned the formation of two transitional justice mechanisms, the TRC and the CIEDP within 6 months of signing the peace deal. But due to political wrangling associated with the perpetrator’s fear of prosecution, it was formed only nine years later in February 2015. Granted a two-year tenure, the commissions were mandated to investigate conflict-related human rights violations, recommend cases for prosecution, promote reconciliation between victims and perpetrators, and recommend reparations for victims.
The TRC and the CIEDP have received more than 63,000 complaints regarding human rights violations committed during the insurgency by either state actors or Maoist rebels. But in the three years since their formation, the transitional bodies have not closed even one of the more than 60,000 cases lodged, with investigations opened in only a tiny fraction of these. Also, there was significant backlash against The Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act as it contained clauses that allowed the commissions to recommend amnesty for perpetrators of serious human rights violations.
These provisions not only contravened the international human rights laws but also were unconstitutional. But the amended draft isn’t short of critiques either. The draft amendment has drawn significant flak as it was composed only through consultations with political elites and did not ensure meaningful and broad-based participation with all the stakeholders.
Further, following the first amendment to the Act, the two commissions were granted a year-long extension until February 2019. But as the commissions have been continually beset by an array of implementation flaws, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this extension alone will not be enough to address the concerns of conflict victims.
The brave testimonies of conflict victims and their families include horrific tales of rape, summary executions, and barbaric torture. Transitional justice is associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. Without an explicit acknowledgement that the victims were wronged and their human rights were abused, the climate of impunity will deepen in the country. To stop this from fostering, the government must truly commit to the provision of justice, truth and reparation to war-era victims, along with swiftly issuing budget and resources necessary for the probe to the two commissions.