International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Nepal

Transitional Justice in Nepal


On Tuesday, Nepal created two Commissions to investigate alleged human right abuses and disappearances during the country’s decade long civil war.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modeled after the South African Truth Commission set up after the apartheid, will look into potential human right abuses committed during the conflict, while the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearances of 1300 people still missing 8 years after the conflict has ended.

The Nepali state and Maoist rebel groups have been accused of potential war crimes, including forced disappearances, unlawful killings, and sexual violence during the conflict that ended with a peace agreement in 2006. While both sides had agreed to look into potential abuses 6 months after the signing of the peace agreement, the Nepali government has failed to act, fearing harm to reconciliation in the country.

Despite the steps taken in recent days, victims have not been optimistic that the Commissions will be able to bring just for those effected, with some claiming that the Commissions will let perpetrators off the hook for their actions with “ambiguous wording”.

Nepal hopes for truth and reconciliation

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?


ICTJ report on Nepal

The International Center for Transitional Justice’s article titled “In Nepal Victim’s Silence Cannot be Bought” is one of relevance to our discourse on transitional justice. Within this piece, the issue of the Nepal’s absence of a comprehensive repartitions program is of importance. While the Nepal government, in cooperation with the Maoist insurgents, developed with Interim Relief Program-which provides financial support to the conflicted victims- after six years there has still been no more developments. Questions of whether or not the Nepal government has confused the “issuance of relief through material benefits for the implementation of a comprehensive reparations program” have surfaced. Keeping this in mind, I cannot help to recall Bronwyn Leebaw’s piece on The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice.

In Bronwyn Leebaw’s The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice, she highlights several downfalls of transitional justice, claiming that “more attention should be given to ways in which efforts to expose, remember, and understand political violence are in tension with their roles as tools for establishing stability and legitimating transitional compromises.” Important in this dissection is the issue of efficiency. Moreover, is the assertion that “individual healing is often in tension with other transitional justice goals.” Accountability is a key element in transitional justice; one that the Nepal government has ignored in light of their financial expenditures. Through this, one can find that Leebaw’s claims are in fact vindicated. The sluggish pace of criminal prosecution and thus legal accountability, if any are in process, are not in sync with the inherent human feelings of revenge. Consequently, this ideological opposition, according to Leebaw, may lead to renewed violence….

Justice News

Here are a few news stories on international justice that caught my attention this week. Feel free to respond with questions and thoughts, or start a new post on one of the individual news stories.


Colombia milita boss ‘Martin Llanos’ confesses murders (BBC)

The Colombia government will soon begin peace negotiations with the FARC rebels who have rivaled the government for territory and power for decades. Justice issues are likely to figure prominently in the negotiations and particularly whether there will be some measure of amnesty to ensure stability and land reform policies for victims. Many parties are guilty of crimes in the Colombian conflict, ranging from leaders of left-wing rebel groups and right-wing paramilitary groups, and government officials. The ICC has Colombia under ‘preliminary investigation’ – the Court and local civil society continue to pressure the government to ensure robust accountability for all parties to the conflict.


No winners in ICC-Libya Standoff (Foreign Policy)

International Criminal Court Debating Where Moammar Gadhafi’s son should be trip (WaPo)

There is increased tension between the ICC and the new transitional government in Libya over who gets to try Saif Gaddafi (son of late Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi) and Senussi (former intelligence chief). Libyan authorities claim that are both willing and capable of trying him, which is allowed under the “complementarity” provisions of the Court’s Rome Statute. The former Chief Prosecutor publicly preferred the trial stay in Libya, but it’s up to the ICC judges and not the Prosecutor. Gaddafi and his lawyers prefer an ICC trial, arguing that a fair trial in Libya is not possible and he would also get the death penalty there.

As Kersten argues in his FP article, this is potentially bad for the credibility of both the ICC and the transitional government in Libya.  The article is also a great background piece on on all the turmoil in he ICC-Libya case.


President Uhuru Can’t Face ICC Trial (The Star)

Kenya AG Praises Bensouda, Blasts Ocampo (Capital FM)

Two candidates for Kenya’s upcoming presidential election are facing charges by the ICC – Kenyatta and Ruto. Both, along with two others, are accused of inciting and planning the violence that followed the disputed results in the last presidential election in 2007/2008. While all the accused have so far cooperated with the ICC, the Kenyan government continues to seek a deferral of the cases and challenge whether candidates and potentially a new president should face an international court. Re the first article, state officials have no immunity from prosecution for crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc. So a potential President Kenyatta could still face the ICC regardless of what the Kenyan constitution says.


Amnesty Reports Unlawful detentions in Rwanda (VOA News)

The Rwanda government continues to be at odds with international human rights groups who accuse the semi-authoritarian regime of repression in various forms. In this recent report, Amnesty highlights the unlawful practices of torture and illegal detention that the government has allegedly practiced to eliminate threats. Undoubtedly, there are threats to regime stability in Rwanda. But the government continues to act with impunity with regard to serious violations of human rights at home and in neighboring Congo.


UN Decries Impunity for Nepal War Crimes ((AFP)

The HRC just published a report, detailing the crimes and failures of accountability in Nepal’s civil war. is one instance, among many, in which the UN Human Rights Council can pressure states on transitional justice through naming and shaming. Typically, the UN commissions an investigation into abuses and publishes a report of this nature prior to the international community setting up a tribunal or other mechanism.


Congolese warlord Lubanga appeals (News 24)

Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, was convicted this year by the ICC on child soldiers charges. He is now appealing his sentence whereas the Chief Prosecutor would like a longer sentence. Many believe Lubanga should have also been charged with other serious crimes related to acts of sexual violence and massacres.