Transitional Justice & Factional Diplomacy
Ritu Raj Subedi
As the democratically elected communist government is striving to build an inclusive Nepali nation-state, it has suddenly found itself grappling with some serious internal and external challenges. The opposition Nepali Congress is trying to put the majority government through wringer over petty issues. Its futile attempts to abort the government’s bid to get the National Medical Education Bill, 2075 from the parliament have gone down the tube. The opposition held the House hostage just because the federal government handed over the responsibility of running two hospitals named after its leader to the provincial governments. But what is more dangerous is the ‘conspiracy’ that domestic and foreign elements are hatching to dismantle the hard-won peace process.
In an apparent violation of Westphalian spirit of sovereignty, the United Nations along with nine Western countries have ganged up to challenge Nepal government over the transitional justice mechanism. They demanded that it ‘clarify to the public its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019’. Their joint statement is seen as attempts to dig up the insurgency-era cases, thereby pushing Nepal into the ground of intractable conflict and uncertainty. The statement has triggered reactions from the head of government, public and social media. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has blamed these foreign missions for being ideologically biased towards Nepal’s peace process. Nepal’s indigenous peace process was historic and originated from the communist approach so the West remained prejudiced towards it, he hinted at an interaction organised in Geneva-based Nepali mission, adding that the embassies showed their restive character and have been unnecessarily engaged in ‘factional diplomacy.’
On Thursday, the United Nations in Nepal together with nine foreign embassies welcomed ‘Nepal’s efforts to bring the peace process to a conclusion by moving forward with a comprehensive and credible transitional justice process.’ They noted the ‘looming expiration of the mandates of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons. They have ‘supported a Nepali-designed, Nepali-led process that is consistent with the 2007 and 2015 judgments of Nepal’s Supreme Court and the country’s obligations under international law.’ However, their pontificating has given the government the hump. Nepal is the United Nations member but how can it create a group of other nations against its own member? This is the blatant breach of international laws and conventions. The unnecessary concerns of foreign mission about the internal affairs of Nepal took place as PM Oli was busy interacting with the international community in Davos. He was urging the investors from the rich nations to pour their money in Nepal’s economic development following successful conclusion of prolonged transition and peace process.
It has been widely believed that those trying to internationalise the conflict-era cases and transitional justice are using Gangamaya Adhikari and Dr Govinda KC. The day Gangamaya was taken to the UN building here to make a call for justice to the conflict victims, Dr KC kicked off the 16th round of hunger strike in Ilam in east Nepal. In addition to medical agenda, Dr KC is also raising the cases of conflict victims to make the ongoing transitional justice trickier. Now Dr KC is carrying the political agenda which has divided the medical fraternity. It is true that Gangamaya has been denied justice. The murderers of her son Krishna are yet to be brought to book. Her husband Nanda Prasad Adhikari breathed his last while he was engaged in fast-onto-death for the same cause. She became the victim of nasty power play involving all major parties. But now she risks becoming a pawn at the hands of those who directly benefit from incubation of conflict in Nepal.
The ongoing development followed the surreptitious visit of Ian Martin, who was the head of dissolved United Nations Mission In Nepal. Martin was not happy when his office was ‘forcefully’ closed down by the then Nepal government led by Madhav Kumar Nepal. In his recent visit, he held talks with an array of people eager to blow the conflict issues. Some lawyers and so-called rights activists are hell-bent on internationalising the conflict-era cases at a time the government is trying to sort it out by forging minimum understanding among the major political forces, Nepal Army, conflict victims and concerned stakeholders. Major national stakeholders in principle agree that those involved in serious human rights violation must be brought to book.
Minister for Law Bhanubhakta Dhakal has intensified consultations with the conflict victims with a view to prepare a common draft on the transitional justice. But some vested interest groups are against this process and spreading the propaganda that the government is bringing a Bill that gives leeway to the perpetrators. They are active to divide the conflict victims and reverse the entire process. It is learnt that the government is going to extend the tenure of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and pass on Bill on the basis of consensus.
Giving justice to the conflict victim is an important component of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) reached in 2006. The then government and CPN-Maoist had agreed to conclude the process of transitional justice within six months of the signing of CPA. During the first premiership of Oli, all stakeholders were close to a deal on sorting out the conflict era cases but this process came to a halt following the downfall of his government. Cases of grave rights violations are very tricky so the foreign power centres use this as a bargaining chip to force Nepali politicians or government to toe their line. It is a common knowledge that India had threatened to sue against chair of erstwhile CPN-Maoist Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda at the UN rights body over rights violation cases that occurred during the insurgency, forcing him to withdraw his party’s supprot to the then Oli government, paving the way for the formation of government under Sher Bahadur Deuba.
The decade-long Maoist insurgency was the bad and devastating chapter of Nepal’s history. Over 17,886 people were killed, 1,530 disappeared and 8,191 wounded in the senseless war, according to the official data. The bellicose movement stunted the country’s evolutionary democratic process based on the roadmap of 1990 constitution. The Maoist insurgency, which many think was fuelled by external elements, weakened the state to an extent that it lost ability to enforce basic democratic order and deliver public goods and services to the citizens. As a result, the foreign agencies and parasites got emboldened to impose their diktats on the internal affairs of the country by taking unfair advantage of its weak economy, fragile system and India-locked position. Instead of poking their nose into sensitive domestic matters, the foreign powers had better extended their selfless support to Nepal for achieving rapid economic growth, prosperity and lasting peace.
(Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues)