The Wait Unto Death For Justice
The International Day of the Disappeared was observed on August 30. The victim families of the disappeared persons due to the decade long armed conflict have been observing it in this country for nearly two decades. After the armed conflict started in 1996 people were made to disappear at the hands of the government security forces or the rebel militias. The armed conflict ended after a decade in 2006. Clearly, the families of the forcibly disappeared persons have been searching for their near and dear ones for roughly two decades.
Even after 11 years of the end of the conflict, the whereabouts of the disappeared persons have not been established although the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), the government and the CPN-Maoist (now CPN-Maoist Centre and other Maoist parties), pledged to form mechanisms to investigate into the disappeared people within 60 days.
It was hoped then that the truth about the disappeared persons would be established within a few years. But, actually, the commission got formed nearly eight years after the CPA. And the Commission of the Investigation into the Disappeared Persons (CIEPD) has about six months to go before its extended 3-year term expires. If the commission has done anything, it has collected complaints about disappearance. This task was also performed by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other human rights organisations including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the conflict time. The CIEPD has reportedly received 3,093 complaints, which is double that of the record of the human rights organisations and the government.
In the last 11 years since the end of the conflict, the victim families of the disappeared persons have received the relief amount as promised by the Maoist-led government in 2008, which can be termed as something is better than nothing. The victim families could not have received any relief had there not been either Maoist-led government or the government supported by the Maoist party. It clearly shows negligence of the other two major parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, in this regard. And this apathy can be explained by the fact that over 70 per cent cases of
disappearance were related to the state forces and thus the Maoist party had political obligation to care about the plight of the families of its cadres, supporters or sympathisers. The Supreme Court had issued an order to the government long ago in 2007 to provide relief to the victim families, but this order was fully implemented after a decade because only this year the victim families received the last chunk of the relief. Given the government records and procedures, it is likely that there are many victim families who have yet to get the relief.
But relief and justice are two totally different things. Relief is meant for healing the immediate wounds and damages by means of physical asset such as money or services. If the relief is physical treatment, justice is psychological one. Yet, even the relief was provided in such a long gap of time that it had lost its essence.
Unlike in the past, the victim families of the disappearance have stopped taking to the streets demanding justice in recent years. It shows that they are exhausted and hopeless now. They may as well have lost all respect for the state and the political parties. One can easily understand their plight and psychological trauma for not being able to compel the state to establish the fate of their beloved ones.
In most cases the disappeared persons were bread winners of their families. Government records collected for the purpose of relief distribution showed that nearly 1,400 were disappeared. Even if we take this record as true, it is obvious that equal number of families were affected directly. If we suppose, a person had some 10 relatives, we can say some 14,000 families were affected. In this sense, disappearance is the case related to 70,000 people assuming that a family has 5 members. If so, should the political parties not take the case seriously and equip the concerned mechanism to perform the task in time?
A period of 20 years is very long in a person’s life. A person made to disappear at the age of 50 may have turned 70 now if he/she is kept alive somewhere. But most victim families have apparently lost hope that their family members are still living. What they want is truth, the circumstances about them. Why were they made to disappear and what happened to them? Who was involved in such a crime?
Alternatively, if the wife of a person was 50 years old when she was made to disappear, she is 70 now, quite unable to take to the street for justice now. Given the fact that average life expectancy in Nepal is about 70, her life is about to end. But she has not got any justice. Does this not mean that she will be waiting for justice until her death?
But the hope for justice does not end in one generation. If there is no justice, a sense of revenge persists, which is not good for establishing peace in the society. If an objective of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006 was to establish peace, this objective cannot be met until the victim families of the disappeared get justice. Then, it should also be taken into consideration that justice delayed is justice denied. Most victim families have still kept alive the hope that they will one day know the truth about their dear and near ones. But when they know it, they will not take it as justice delivered by the state. Even then, the question lingers on: How long they will have to wait to know the truth?