Justice In Waiting And The HR Day
Ceremonies that include rallies and speech programmes organised in Nepal to mark the 68th International Human Rights Day on December 10 must have been nothing but rituals for the victims of the decade long armed conflict, particularly the families of those made to disappear, for they have got no justice at all even after a decade of the end of the war. Families of over 1200 people made to disappear have been waiting for over 15 years to know the whereabouts of their dear and near ones. Nearly 3000 people who have registered complaints regarding disappearance at the Commission for Investigation of the Disappeared Persons (CIDP) have also been waiting for justice nearly two years.
There are other human rights issues, for instance, the issues of extra judicial killings, related to the armed conflict. But the mechanisms including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) formed to look into these issues and recommend the government for justice delivery have remained almost jobless in the absence of necessary laws related to them. In this context, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ was right to express his feeling at the programme organised by the NHRC to mark the HR Day that the conflict victims were denied justice in absence of the necessary rules and regulations for the transitional justice mechanisms such as the TRC and the CIDP. The victims want justice, not the sympathetic expressions or feelings of political actors!
Justice delayed is justice denied. But, if past records are any guide, it is unlikely that the families of the disappeared persons will get even the delayed justice. Out of the 36 people made to disappear during the 30-year autocratic Panchayat regime, whereabouts of only a few was made public by a commission formed after the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. Unfortunately, nobody was held accountable for disappearance of the persons, and thus no justice was given to the victim families. In a way, the cases of disappearance were dismissed because those who had made the political activists disappear were not brought to book. Those who were made to disappear at the hands of state security forces and for the cause of democracy got no justice even when democracy was reinstated! It is very likely that even those who fought and got disappeared for republican set up or for the cause of the Maoist armed rebellion may get no justice even long after the institutionalisation of the republican system.
The situation of those who were killed during the armed conflict is not less painful. Those who were killed in the war are declared martyrs. But the martyrs’ families have got only half of the relief amount announced by the government. A considerable number of families of the disappeared persons and those of the martyrs have yet to get even the half portion of the relief. It has been so because both relief and justice to the victims have been politicised. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML think that most of the families of the disappeared persons and the martyrs are the Maoists. Because of this attitude to the victims, providing relief to the victims and delivering justice to them is not in their priority. It is proved by the fact that only the government supported or led by the Maoist party has announced the relief for the victims in the last ten years. And for the Maoists, providing relief to the victims has been like a political agenda to compromise with the other parties.
Sometimes, the issues of war era HR violations and the need to bring the violators to book are also raised in the international forum. Just last year, during the time of Indian blockade, Indian diplomats were raising such issues in the meetings of the UN human rights bodies. It is well known that human rights issues are also the international political issues. If a country has to express ire against the one it has differences, that country is likely to raise HR issues in international forums. The way India raised the issue in HR meeting in Geneva last year can be understood in the same light. Definitely, the western countries also raise the issues of the disappeared and the extra judicial killing and the need to ensuring justice to the victims.
Presently, the political parties are engaged in finding out ways to hold elections and ensure smooth implementation of the new constitution. The ruling parties have registered a constitution amendment Bill and the opposition parties including CPN-UML have objected to it. It may take a few weeks for them to find a common ground on this. They may then be busy in elections and then in government formation. Thus, they will have no time to seriously work for providing justice to the families of those who sacrificed for bringing about the new constitution. With the passage of time, the political actors may also start to say that we have to move ahead forgetting the past. By that time, most of the victim families may have lost all hope and energy to fight for justice. Then the cases will be documented as history because even if the TRC and CIDP make recommendations, they will be neglected the way the recommendations of the NHRC have not been carried out by the government.
But if the necessary laws for the TRC and CIDP are made in time, they will accomplish their task, and the situation may not be so gloomy. It is likely that the CIDP will at least document who were responsible for making disappearances. Identification of the perpetrators will pave the way for seeking justice for the victim families. On the other hand, the victim families should be supported by the government by providing relief as announced if the political parties are really for human rights protection and promotion. Otherwise, marking of human rights day for the victims will be a mockery against their plight because tall talks are made on the day even by the political actors.