IT is a damning evidence of Nepali political leaders’ lack of foresight and their disregard of the vital issue of justice for the victims of the civil war that more and more Nepalis are now knocking the doors of the United Nations for redress. It is because of these two factors that successive governments in the last six years have failed to establish transitional justice mechanisms like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Disappearance Commission, both envisioned in almost all important political documents starting with the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord. But with the untimely demise of CA and in the absence of legislature, it will be sometime yet before the two bodies can come into being. As a result, an increasing number of victims of rights violations have been petitioning with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), accusing the state of violating their civil and political rights outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). (The UNHRC is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the ICCPR.)
The 21 cases filed against the Nepali state at the UNHRC are related to torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings allegedly committed by state actors during the conflict. As Nepal is a signatory to the ICCPR and its Optional Protocol, Nepalis can file complaints at the UNHRC if they do not get justice even after exhausting all available domestic remedies. The fact that more and more victims of the civil war are being forced to seek international arbitration is sure to send out an insalubrious image of the country in the international arena. If an international body is forced to repeatedly interfere in what should be the job of national justice establishments, it also raises a serious question over the country’s sovereign status, albeit it will be a UN body that will act as the adjudicator this time. Already, UNHRC has instructed Nepal government to investigate and prosecute those involved in gross human rights violation of two Nepalis and to provide fair compensations to their families. The ready excuse Nepal government offered to UNHRC in the past—that the state would address such concerns through the formation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Disappearance Commission—is no longer available with the dissolution of CA and absence of a legislature to approve such commissions.
Whatever their differences, the political parties, as the guardians of democratic values, should in the last six years have been able to set aside their other differences to establish credible transitional justice mechanisms, the absence of which robs countless victims of the civil war of justice. We believe the government must once again reiterate its firm commitment (with all the major parties on board) that the state is still serious about putting in place such institutions at the earliest, and also present clear plans for their formation. Otherwise, Nepal’s credibility among international actors and its important donors in particular, may erode to dangerous levels.