Heal the painNot one perpetrator from the conflict era has been held accountable in the past decade
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2006 that ended the 10-year Maoist conflict has three major components—restructuring the state through a new constitution, integrating Maoist combatants into the security forces and addressing human rights violations committed during the fighting. The political parties that fought each other are now jointly enjoying state power and they have promulgated a constitution establishing Nepal as a federal democratic republic. Maoist combatants and the security forces have been amalgamated. And the government has fulfilled the ritual of formulating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP).
The people firmly believed that the CPA would reinstate sustainable peace in the country. But the feudal attitude, characteristics and working modality of the state and the political parties have not changed, so there has been no socio-economic transformation. Political instability, corruption, an exodus of migrant workers and public frustration continue. The Supreme Court has issued more than a dozen rulings laying the foundation for a credible and victim-centric transitional justice system. But the government lacks the will to implement the court’s orders or the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission on victim-centric transitional justice, criminal accountability, and an end to impunity. Moreover, the government has expressed its dissatisfaction with the Nepal Conflict Report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Not one perpetrator from the conflict era has been held accountable, nor has a single victim experienced a sense of justice in the past decade. Persons accused of human rights violations have been appointed and promoted to public positions and the security forces. The state has not recognised victims of sexual violence and torture, nor provided any relief to them. Charges of human rights violations have been dropped as being cases of a political nature. Parliament approved the TRC and CIEDP Bill in May 2014 contravening the Supreme Court’s verdict and the Expert Task Force’s report. The act did not criminalise disappearance and torture or ensure voluntary consent of conflict victims for reconciliation. But it granted discretionary amnesty rights to the commissions over serious human rights violations and interfered with the attorney general’s right to decide to prosecute.
Conflict victims have campaigned for more than a decade for a victim-centric commission. They have submitted memorandums to the government, political parties and stakeholders, and filed writ petitions in the courts. The Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP) has critically observed the commissions’ activities and submitted memorandums to them and the government. The CVCP has asked the government to create a victim-centric roadmap by framing legal provisions based on the Supreme Court’s rulings, and prepare the necessary procedural documents and structure in consultation with conflict victims. But the commissions established to heal the pain of the conflict victims have been ignoring them.
The parliamentary Social Justice and Human Rights Committee has time and again told the government to amend the laws and provide human and financial resources, but nothing has happened. The commissions which have been tasked with revealing the truth are nearing the end of their two-year tenure. They have not revealed the truth about even one serious human rights violation. Unless the victims are provided a free and conducive environment to express their painful stories and expose the truth about their rights violation, the trauma of victimisation will continue. The international community including the United Nations and human rights communities have not recognised the commissions, and the victims don’t trust them either.
Discussions on amending the TRC and CIEDP laws have been continuing for more than seven months. The government has to be sensitive about the consequences of the commissions’ failure and continuation of conflict-era pain. Every stakeholder should understand one’s responsibility and not only one’s concerns. The commissions should be made accountable to the victims and the mandate of transitional justice by making the necessary laws. Thus, an amendment to the act should be utilised as an opportunity to incorporate at least the minimum concerns, gain trust and recognition for the commissions and coordinate to make use of the available documents, expertise and resources.
The amendment must remove confusion over serious crimes, criminalise torture and disappearance, address the statute of limitation, make special provisions for victims and witness protection and ensure the reparation rights of victims. Provision 2(j)9 of the act regarding inhuman crimes and crimes against humanity and international human rights and humanitarian laws should be clearly explained, including categories such as child soldier. A special court must be formed under the current appointment process. There must be a provision for review by the Supreme Court. The truth seeking and justice process of the cases in court should be completed by the special court, and the victims should be provided equal reparation rights as that provided for cases filed with the commissions.
Adhikari is the chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform