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Editorial: Disappearing justice in Nepal

Editorial: Disappearing justice in Nepal

On the International Day of the Disappeared on Aug 30, the conflict victims in Nepal had little to celebrate. Exemplifying Nepali state’s indifference to transitional justice, neither the federal government nor any major political party observed the day. There was not even a statement. The old wounds will self-heal, the hope seems to be, with the passage of time. As those directly affected by the conflict make way for new generations, the old family resentments won’t feel so raw. Yet no one really knows how when this process of forgetting will be completed, if at all. And impunity will rise when perpetrators of grave rights violations escape punishment. 

Around 1,350 people are still ‘missing’ from conflict period. Their families have waited for justice for nearly a decade and a half since the Maoist guns fell silent with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. The two transitional justice bodies—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances—were to be formed within six months of the CPA’s signing; it took them nine years to materialize. Again, save for the human rights community and conflict victims, no important state actor seemed serious about seeing the transitional justice process through. Leaders of the mother Maoist party and Nepali Congress were reluctant as they feared persecution for their direct or indirect roles in war-time rights violations. Nepal Army, likewise, was dead- against punishing its officials for torture or enforced disappearance. 

This seriousness is still missing. Besides contributing to impunity and corroding public trust in the state, the other risk of this delay is internationalization of the process as conflict victims are forced to seek redress abroad. That will tarnish the country’s image and make senior political and army officials liable to detention and trial for war crimes when they venture abroad. This sordid drama has dragged on for too long. Realizing this, members of the international community say they now support a ‘home-grown’ transitional justice process, as much as they keep emphasizing the need for timely justice for conflict victims. No one is looking for perfect solutions here. Yet the importance of giving conflict victims a sense of closure cannot be emphasized enough. It will also be a test of the health of the newfangled Nepali democracy.