Nepal’s War Victims Await Justice

By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

Victims of the decade-long armed insurgency (February 1996 to November 2006) in Nepal are waiting for justice. The delay in formation and the performance of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) & Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) to investigate and ensure accountability has frustrated the hopes of the victims.

In the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed by the government and the Communist Party of Nepal Maoist in November 2006, both parties had committed to immediately set up a TRC & CIEDP to investigate the creating mechanisms aimed at ensuring accountability for the perpetrators and justice and reparations for the victims.

8 years after the signing of CPA, the Nepal government decided to form the TRC & CIEDP on 10 February 2015 which, however, completed its initial two-year tenure on February 9, 2017 without any significant achievement. It extended its mandate pledging to accomplish its tasks by another one year until February 9, 2018. Following its establishment, more than 58,052 complaints of human rights violations have been registered at the TRC.

CIEDP has registered some 2,874 cases of disappearance during the insurgency period. Nepal’s TRC has been mandated to resolve all gross human rights violations during the Maoist-led insurgency era. However, the question is whether it will be able to utilize the remaining time. In the past, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a constitutional body of Nepal, had recommended hundreds of cases, which went unheard of.

Nepal, a tiny South Asian Himalayan nation situated between India to the south and China to the North, has hundreds of notorious human right violation cases during insurgency period. According to Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, some 17,886 people lost their lives, 8191 disabled, 69571 displaced, 17448 private properties lost or damaged during the decade-long insurgency. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has listed over 9,000 cases of “serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” during the decade-long Maoist-led insurgency.

OHCHR’s “Nepal Conflict Report – 2012” criticized the Nepalese authorities for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice. Notorious human right violations include Maoist’s 2005 June bus bombing in Madi Chitwan – 170 kilometers from capital Kathmandu, killing 35 civilians and execution of twenty-one Maoist cadres after being captured in Doramba Ramechhap – 87 kilometers from the capital on August 2003 by the Nepal Army.

The National Human Right Commission data suggests more than 60 percent of cases that happened during the civil war had nothing to do with the conflict. Former lawmaker Bal Krishna Dhungel’s case is one of the notorious examples of Nepal’s serious impunity. Nepal’s Supreme Court has already issued an arrest warrant against Dhungel on the convicted murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha of Okhaldhunga in 1998. Ironically, Dhungel has been roaming freely. Despite the court’s arrest order, he has threatened physical attack against the Judges issuing the verdict against him. Nepal’s previous Maoist-led government in November 2011 had recommended his presidential clemency for him which eventually was rejected by the court.

Nepal government initially granted 100,000 rupees as interim compensation to missing persons’ families. Majority of them received their payment, but attempts to assign legal accountability for the crimes have been proven illusive. Some families refused the compensation demanding justice first. Nanda Prasad Adhikari and his wife Ganga Maya Adhikari from Phujel in Gorkha district have been one among them. Adhikari’s family refused to receive the compensation without proper investigation of the murder of their 19-year old son Krishna Adhikari, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by Maoist cadres in Ratnanagar of Chitwan on June 6, 2004.

After 333 days in hunger strike Nanda Prasad Adhikari breathed his last on 22 September 2014 at the age of 52. Adhikari’s body is still lying at the hospital waiting for funeral. His wife Ganga Maya Adhikari is still on hunger strike struggling to get justice. She is lying unconscious at a hospital bed. The couple’s voice seeking justice in non-violence means have been unheard of. Therefore, they started their hunger strike on October 23, 2013 demanding action against those involved in the murder of their son.

In a separate case, Nepal’s district court recently sentenced three former army officials to 20 years in jail for killing a 15-year-old school-girl Maina Sunwar. She was arrested from her home in Kavre – 45km south of the capital. She was tortured, electrocuted and killed on February 2004. Maina’s body was exhumed in March 2007. District Court issued arrest orders of the four accused in 2008 but none has been arrested so far. Her mother Devi Sunwar is still struggling for justice with the hope that her daughter’s murderers are punished. These are some of the few examples of barriers to get justice during the war era crime.

Despite pressure coming from several right groups as well as court verdicts, Nepal government is yet to enforce court verdicts over such cases. Right groups are worried about general amnesty on sensitive war era atrocities. Ten years have passed. However, nothing significant has been accomplished so far. Since post-conflict phase, hundreds of victims are yet to get justice. Civilians affected by the widespread violence, death and disappearances of war-time family, are still deprived of justice.

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