Nepal hopes for truth and reconciliation
March 3, 2014
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Recently, victims from Nepal’s armed conflict that lasted from 1996 to 2006 have expressed renewed hope that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) could finally become a reality under the country’s new Constituent Assembly and prime minister. Since the end of the civil war between government forces and Maoist militant combatants in 2006, many failed efforts have been made to try and end the impunity for perpetrators of war time abuses. According to the Nepal National Human Rights Commission, over 17,000 people were killed in the conflict while thousands more were tortured. Over 3,000 cases of severe human rights abuse have been recorded by the Commission, with over 850 cases of forced disappearance also under investigation. Yet, despite the scale of the violence, many of the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
Yet, in the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord that was brokered by the UN after the end of the civil war, one of the most contentious issues was the wish to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While the process to set up a TRC began in 2007, it has continually been fraught with criticisms and controversies. Many were concerned about blanket amnesty and the question of impunity for many of the main perpetrators of the violence on both sides of the conflict. However, on January 2, 2014 the victims of the violence finally won a major victory when the Nepal Supreme Court ruled that blanket amnesty in serious cases of human rights abuse would be ruled as unacceptable before a court of law. Yet, despite this progress, many believe that the establishment of a TRC is still essential for the victims of the conflict to heal and be able to move on.
“The peace process will remain incomplete if the severe crimes committed during the armed conflict are not addressed, and justice is not provided to the victims,” said Bed Prasad Adhikari, NHRC’s top official. Many advocates of a TRC in Nepal believe that it is the first step towards justice and a lasting peace. Some victims, like Nanda Prasad Adhikari and his wife Ganga, believe in the need for justice enough that they are willing to sacrifice everything for it. They have been on a hunger strike since November 2013 in the hope of securing justice for their teenage son, who was executed in 2004 by Maoists rebels and the couple have recently been hospitalized because of it. Many of the victims believe that the newly elected Constituent Assembly and Sushil Koirala as prime minister represent the first steps towards the implementation of a TRC and justice once and for all. I thought that this case was interesting because it openly outlaws blanket amnesty in the case of human rights abuse as a form of impunity. It will be interesting to track if Nepal, despite the extreme political opposition against it, manages to implement a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The victims of Nepal’s violence have been trying for a TRC since 2006 but it has managed to gain very little traction within the new government. What actions could be taken–either by domestic institutions or international ones–to force the enactment of a TRC? Would it still be beneficial to the victims? Does the ability to seek justice reduce over time or will it still be as effective as it would have been seven years ago?