Dangerous allianceState security forces and political parties have allied to subvert the truth behind human rights abuses
The alliance between Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) brought two conflicting parties together in the interest of sharing power in the government. This singular move destroyed the norms of justice and the agenda set by the People’s Movement. The party leaders abused their authority without addressing conflict survivors’ key demands for truth and social justice. When the top level leaders from both sides of the conflict formed an alliance with security forces and agreed to forget about past abuses, they compromised on their standards for their mutual benefit and position. The hope for fair trials and justice has become a distant dream for ordinary citizens.
Truth commission in name
Instead of creating hope for the future, the political forces built a strong alliance with the security forces that were directly involved in the most egregious human rights violations during the armed conflict. This alliance has served to sabotage the peace process by establishing amnesty commissions to hide the truth and protect alleged perpetrators. This represents a betrayal of the citizenry and of every element of the transitional justice process. Three years after their establishment, both commissions now argue that they cannot finish their task within the mandated time—even after a year long extension. These commissions abused public resources to assist political amnesty and indirectly supported the alleged perpetrators by neglecting to question their past, and in doing so, they insulted the wider community of victims and the general public.
Victims and frontline activists have refused to be cowed by threats from state agents and are raising their voices after a long wait for justice. As a result, they are facing greater threats and deeper feelings of injustice and insecurity. For the victims and marginalised groups in Nepal, the justice system has failed to deliver. The state never implemented local court verdicts, Supreme Court decisions or the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) recommendations, and ignored the UN Human Rights Committee’s views on the violations of provisions from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Nepal committed to dealing with its past violations and delivering justice to the victims during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the UN Human Rights Council. Nepal was recently elected as a member of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) along with Pakistan and Afghanistan from the Asia Pacific region. This would be a big test for Nepal to resolve conflicting issues of transitional justice at home and abroad to maintain its position. Nepal committed to protect and promote human rights, deal with the past violations and strengthen independent mechanisms while applying and lobbying for the UNHRC membership. It has international obligations and commitments to be fulfilled in the coming years. The world will examine Nepal’s role as a UNHRC member, and the country may have a chance to enhance its international image by dealing with past abuses, respecting the rule of law, ending impunity and showing its role in safeguarding human rights both at home and abroad. There are so many challenges and little hope for the victims of violations, who never received an answer and justice. The question is: where should victims’ families go when faced with such difficulties, and what strategies should they adopt?
Most families know the alleged perpetrators of the crimes committed. There is a long list of alleged perpetrators on hand. Thousands of families registered complaints to the on-going commission process and provided the names of alleged perpetrators However, all the government mechanisms and state-led commissions failed to publish the names and fully investigate the crimes committed. Instead, the alleged perpetrators have been promoted, protected and have powerfully defended their past abuses without guilt.
Failing the people
There have been no credible investigations and no institutional reforms by either state or the security forces. Instead, political parties are actually promoting alleged perpetrators, protecting criminals and defending the security forces. This is all being done in the name of political consensus and political alliance to protect their future, while actually laying the ground for renewed conflict.
With these increasing threats, and the subversion of the political process, there is no point in extending or continuing the mandate of the existing commissions. There is no possibility to amend or revise the commissions’ legal mandates before they reach their end. If the government seriously seeks to speak the truth on behalf of its victimized citizens, the content of the current Act, its driving principles and all procedural approaches need to be amended in coordination with the victims’ representatives; otherwise the state’s approach to the commissions will fail. It will also fail all those actors, both national and international, who were actively involved in the name of transitional justice in Nepal.
The attempt at a Nepali truth commission failed largely because of the state and the political parties’ unwillingness to allow for the formation of an independent commission. A number of key people in the Nepal peace process have not internalised the core value of social justice and didn’t cooperate at any point of the process—not the recent ‘left alliance’, the security forces, and not even the current Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s alliance. Thus the new political alliance under whatever cover is dangerous for victims and marginalised communities who may become further isolated and will be increasingly unable to fight for their rights. Given the ineffectiveness of the commissions, political irresponsibility and security intervention, conflict survivors and victims of conflict must organise local resistance through naming of perpetrators and by boycotting abusers at the public level on the basis of social intervention.
Recently the Nepal army challenged the district court and Supreme Court verdicts against their personnel who committed crimes. By filing a writ petition regarding Maina Sunuwar’s torture, rape and murder case against family activist Devi Sunuwar (mother of Maina), the Army headquarters is threatening activists and the human rights community. The political alliances are promoting and providing tickets to many alleged perpetrators, the corrupt and criminals in the upcoming election, and that may bring serious consequences for the future course of Nepali politics. Let us boycott people who try to subvert the truth, and let us empower locals against the abusers.
Both political and security alliances are openly challenging the rule of law, legitimising their crimes through unhealthy alliances and hiding the truth against the spirit of the People’s Movement. This is a tough time for rights activists and the grassroots struggle for social justice. This is the time for defending the rights struggle and creating momentum for a unified people’s struggle as an alternative.
Bhandari is an activist and a PhD researcher at NOVA Law School, New University of Lisbon