Opinion: More justice needed for war victims in Nepal

Opinion: More justice needed for war victims in Nepal©PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP
In this photograph taken on February 2, 2017, Nepalese war victim Pabitra Sunakhari shows photographs of her son
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Nepal’s political elites hail the country’s transition from civil war as a success. But commissions for Truth and Reconciliation and on Enforced Disappeared Persons are not independent, and have not so far done their job. Many cases of civil war abuses filed before both national courts and UN bodies have not been adequately followed up, and victims are still waiting for justice. 

On this Human Rights Day (December 10), let us call on all political actors in Nepal to respect victims’ right to truth, access to justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition for a peaceful future.
The Maoist revolt in Nepal between 1996 and 2006 left thousands dead, as well as many disappeared. After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2006, the Maoists joined mainstream politics, entered parliament and participated in the first Constitutional Assembly election in 2008. A new Constitution was finally adopted in 2015, ending a protracted transition. But thousands of victims of conflict-related crimes, political and structural violence remain in need of justice. The situation of victims and minorities is worse than ever. The transition period has been a lost opportunity to address social injustices and uphold citizens’ rights.

Crisis of legitimacy

The Supreme Court of Nepal has ruled favorably for conflict victims on several occasions (1 June 2007, 2 January 2014 and 26 February 2015), but State authorities never implemented those rulings. There have been many documentation efforts, both official and unofficial, of human rights violations during the conflict in Nepal. National human rights bodies, the UN OHCHR, victims’ organizations, and civil society organizations have all undertaken documentation efforts. The two transitional justice mechanisms (Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons) have so far have registered over 60,000 cases of abuses from the conflict.
However, after three years, and mere months from the end of their mandate (February 2018), both commissions face a crisis of legitimacy. They have been characterized throughout by low performance, passivity, political loyalty, poor investigative modalities, mistrust from civil society, internal conflict, and incompetence. They have always lacked a clear vision, adequate resources, and have consistently ignored serious cases of human rights violations. They are seen as serving the interest of the State to legitimatize state-protected perpetrators. Although thousands of violations have been recorded, there is a risk that the evidence of those abuses -- documented by victims and victims’ associations – could even be destroyed.
Hundreds of complaints have also been submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) and UN Human Rights Committee concerning violations of ICCPR provisions on torture and enforced disappearances. But despite this, there has been no serious follow-up by the UN agencies regarding these issues. In its unwillingness to hold the State accountable, both to its own promises and to international norms, the international community is failing the Nepalese people. So, on this Human Rights Day, let us also call for the UN to do more to help bring justice for victims of the civil war in Nepal.