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Action needed, not empty words, say conflict victims

  • Justice a far cry even a decade after peace deal

Feb 10, 2017-

On a November day in 2001, Bhauni Chaudhary’s husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law were working on a paddy field. It was time to harvest rice, recalls Bhauni of Bargaddi, Ghorahi in Dang district. All three were killed by security forces, she says, on charge of “being Maoists”. 

Five incidents of mass killing took place—11 were killed in Ghorahi, 12 in Goltakuri-8, nine in Laxmipur-3, eight in Duruwa-5 and six in Phulbari-6—and many others were disappeared in Dang about a decade and a half ago at the height of the Maoist insurgency.  

Chuma Acharya’s husband was taken away by the Maoists. There is no trace of him. Chuma has been running from pillar to post seeking justice, but to no avail. Every time I approach the authorities, I am asked to bring proof, she says. 

More than a decade has passed since then rebel Maoists and the government signed a peace deal to end the civil war that claimed more than 17,000 lives. More than 1,400 were disappeared, thousands were displaced

Despite repeated promises by parties and successive governments, justice continues to elude conflict victims.

Two commissions were formed in 2015, nine years after the peace deal which envisaged a fact-finding panel within six months, to investigate murders, forced disappearances and rapes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) have collected over 60,000 complaints. 

Their terms were extended by a year on Thursday. 

For conflict victims, it has been too long a wait, while the commissions, which are mandated to investigate and recommend action, are hamstrung by a lack of teeth, as laws in line with court orders are yet to be put in place. The commissions were formed under legislation that allows perpetrators amnesties. Supreme Court orders to

bring the legislation in line with Nepal’s obligations under international law have been largely ignored. 

A draft of the first amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 has been prepared, proposing a maximum of 20 years of jail for the perpetrators of murder and disappearance. The draft seeks to define disappearance. It has also provisioned reparations for rape and sexual assault victims. 

“The state has failed to ensure justice. Even court orders have not been implemented,” says Punya Chaudhary, whose husband was killed during the insurgency. Conflict victims are chagrined by the state for making them an object of neglect. When Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal returned to power a second time in August last year, he underlined concluding the remaining tasks of the peace process as his top priority. But hardly have things moved forward in that direction, say conflict victims and rights activists. 

International rights groups have long been calling on the government and political parties to show commitment and ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict. 

Dropada Neupane, whose husband was killed in 2004, also of Dang, says, “We were never given even hope that justice will be delivered.”

“Programmes are organised in the name of conflict victims like us, and we are made to cry. When it comes to justice delivery, we are a forgotten lot,” she says. 

Extension of terms of the TRC and CIEDP may give a flicker of hope to conflict victims, but rights activists underscore the need of commitment from the government and political parties. 

With nowhere to go, conflict victims can only wait for justice to be delivered without knowing when. 

They have but one thing to say: Action not empty words.

Published: 10-02-2017 08:33

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