Nepal: Civil socity demands justice for conflict victims -By Ambika Pokhrel
Ten years of internal armed conflict in Nepal ended in 2006 with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). About 13,236 people were killed during the conflict, 1006 disappeared and 785 were injured and left handicapped. The conflict victims still live in misery but their pain has been widely ignored and many have been left to their own fate.The government did provide some minor support to conflict victims through interim relief packages. However, the implementation of these packages does not lack controversy and criticism. There are many cases of fake conflict victims who received relief packages although these were denied to some real victims. People close to the political leaders have received package funds even though their level of victimhood does not reach the established criteria for receiving them. Research conducted by Advocacy Forum (pdf) shows that many relief package funds were denied to conflict victims who deserved receiving them.
Implementation of the peace accord:
One of the setbacks of the peace process is that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was not established five years after the signing of the CPA. Besides the TRC, a Disappeared Commission was also to be formed, that would investigate how many people had disappeared during the conflict and what their status was. People have lost their passion, and their frustration towards the political leaders has been increasing day by day.
Not only have many victims of massive human rights violations been denied justice, but many perpetrators of these same massive human rights violations have actually been enjoying public and governmental positions. Agni Sapkot, a member of the constituent assembly of the UCPN-Maoist Party, was appointed Information and Communication Minister in May 2011, although he was accused in a murder case. The murder case was filed against him in the Kabre district, but he does not appear in the registers of the Nepalese police. Likewise, Balkrishna Dhungel, a constituent assembly member of the UCPN-M, has been enjoying his membership although the Supreme Court has issued a verdict of life imprisonment against him.
Besides, many security personnel have been enjoying their portfolios and entirely ignoring the orders given by the courts for those cases filed against them. Nepalese army official Nirajan Basnet was sent back to Nepal from the UN peacekeeping forces in Chad. He was one of those accused of the killing and torturing of a young girl, Maina Sunar, during the conflict, but he has disregarded the Supreme Court’s order to appear before it.
The role of civil society and human rights activists:
Under these circumstances, some civil society and human rights activists have been working to support the victims in their fight for justice. Advocacy Forum has been providing legal assistance to conflict victims. A group of human rights activists filed a case in the Supreme Court against Agni Sapkota, who was Information and Communication Minister, immediately after he was appointed to this position. He has been accused for the murder of Arjun Lama, from the Kabre district, when he was in charge of this area during the conflict.
Also, when Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, a vice chairperson of the UCPN-M, was appointed as Prime Minister in September 2011, the Cabinet appealed to the President in order to request amnesty for Balkrishna Dhungel, as he had been sentenced with life imprisonment in a murder case. The Cabinet’s request was widely criticized and some protests took place, mainly led by civil society and families of the victims. In the end, the Prime Minister forced the President to remain silent on the issue.
Indeed, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a constitutional body in Nepal, has been receiving many complaints from victims of the conflict, especially after the signature of the CPA. The NHRC have been making recommendations to the government, based on their investigations, urging it to expedite the work in order to provide remedies to the victims and their families.
The government’s responses tend not to be encouraging. Although in recent years the government took the decision to provide compensation for the victims and their families, prosecution or departmental actions towards human rights violators are hardly enforced (Summary Report of NHRC Recommendation in a Decade, 2000-2010: National Human Rights Commission, Nepal, November 2010). This also indicates that the situation is one of alarming impunity as the human rights violators of this conflict are going unpunished.However, the civil society movement still holds on. Many rights activists and civil society members have been continuously organising protests to make the perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for the victims, and denounce amnesty in those cases of massive human rights violations which happened during the conflict.