Elusive justiceDespite international pressure and supreme court verdicts, the government continues to hold out on completing the transitional justice process.
During the decade-long civil conflict, Nepal was witness to gross human rights violations, both by the state security apparatus and the Maoists. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2006, a journey towards a new Nepal began. A transitional justice mechanism was set up to deal with the disappearances, murders and other rights violations that occurred during this period. As a result, besides some cases that were tried in civil court, most victims and their kin waited for the transitional justice bodies to finish their work to attain closure. But year after year, and government after government, the clear need for justice of any kind has been ignored by those in power.
Now, after more than a decade has been wasted in this sham, the conflict victims and their kin still are no closer to closure; Nepali society is no closer to the truth. The transitional justice bodies remain comatose with the entire process being politicised. Even as Nepal’s two-year term in the UN Human Rights Council ends later this year, the government has made no attempt to push the transitional justice process forward. Embarrassingly, even as it projects the facade of being a champion of human rights on the Council, it has come to light that Nepal has not allowed the UN’s own Special Rapporteurs working in the areas of transitional justice to visit the country. Repeated requests dating back at least over a year back have apparently been left ignored.
Tellingly, it seems that only the rapporteurs working in transitional justice have had their requests ignored, as those working in the fields of food, hunger, poverty and migrant workers have visited, or are expected to visit, in the period between 2018 and 2021. While a country is not obligated to allow the rapporteurs to scrutinise and study developments in any subject, that Nepal has allowed those working in subjects other than transitional justice to visit surely means it has much to hide from the international community in this field.
The two commissions set up to look at conflict era violations—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons—are already over five years late in completing their work satisfactorily. After years of the commissions being crippled by politicisation, current Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, who also handles the law portfolio, became vocal about the transitional justice process, renewing hope that the process would finally see a fitting and satisfactory end. Gyawali addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last year, mentioning how Nepal was capable and committed to completing the process impartially. He also promised, in an interview with the Post, that the government would abide by the Supreme Court’s verdict to amend the laws governing these two commissions.
Despite these promises, the government petitioned the Supreme Court to review its decisions on the matter, something the Supreme Court rejected outright. To be sure, the government will have to ensure that the verdicts are abided by, and the process is completed fairly. If this government is keen to delay it further, then a future one will see it completed. This is because Nepal’s people will not let this slide into obscurity. The promise of a new Nepal was built on the promise of reconciliation. The many victims, their kin and human rights practitioners will not simply let go of the fight. The continued requests by the UN Special Rapporteurs show that the international community will not forget easily, either.
It is in everyone’s best interest that the transitional justice process is completed satisfactorily, and soon. This government, and Gyawali in particular, must know that their promises are on the record—the political stability they claim to want will not come without resolving the transitional justice question.
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