© All rights reserved. NepalKhabar

Opinion

When will the Peace Process conclude in Nepal?

Binod K. Pathak

Binod K. Pathak

 |  Kathmandu

It is heartening to note that the Government of Nepal has already started preparing a reparation action plan for decade-long insurgency-era victims albeit at a snail's pace. Almost 18 years have passed since the end of the armed conflict between Maoists and government forces (represented by Monarchy) and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on November 21, 2006. The promised justice to the victims of serious abuses on both sides is still eluding. The tremendous pressure exerted by Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, TRIAL International and the international community in general left no option before the successive governments but to accept the repeatedly expressed concerns about the faltering transitional justice process and redress the grievances of the victims including reparations of those who survived the brutal onslaught on their 'persons and property'.

The peace process is yet to reach a logical conclusion as the transitional justice process remains incomplete. Four goals were set out in order to conclude the 'Peace Process' post-CPA-2006: integration of Maoist combatants (Peoples' Liberation Army) into the Nepali Army or in society at large, state restructuring, the promulgation of the new Constitution of Nepal and completion of the transitional justice process. All three goals of the 'peace process' have been achieved except the transitional justice process which is tottering on its feet and got stuck in the victims' necks like a fish bone threatening to derail the entire peace process and abandon the insurgency-era victims brooding over the injustice meted out to them throughout their life. The whole nation is feeling indignant about it as it is tarnishing the global perception of Nepal as a country of peace by showing the poor track record of protecting and safeguarding the human rights of the citizens.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' has already expressed his commitment to complete the remaining works of the peace process while addressing a special news conference organized at Tribhuvan International Airport upon returning home after attending the 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held in Kampala, Uganda.  He assured that the bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would soon see the light of day. The PM emphasized on building consensus to conclude the long-awaiting 'Peace Process' by engaging in discussions with all the sides (political parties, the victims, and the perpetrators of crimes). It is relevant here to go into the context of the 'Peace Process' that emerged out of a decade of armed conflict in the country.

(Girija Prasad Koirala and Pushpa Kamal Dahal signing the CPA on November 21, 2006)

The then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), popularly called Maoists, launched a violent armed struggle ('People's War') against monarchy and feudalism on February 13, 1996. This 'armed conflict' soon turned into a deadly insurgency almost assuming the proportion of a civil war as per the estimate of international observers ravaging the conditions of life and property of millions of countrymen for ten years. Scores of people lost their lives, several of them got grievously injured and maimed and several others lost their property before they could migrate to safer places around the world or hide in several other safe places within the country. The plight of the victims seemed irredeemable until then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) agreed to sign a ''12-point Agreement'' on November 22, 2005 with a view to enter into negotiations with democratic parliamentary parties famously known as ''Seven Parties Alliance'' for launching People's Movement II (Dosro Jan Andolan) on April 6, 2006 through non-violent street protests (not by violent means as Maoist rebels continued to do). The Seven Parties Alliance consists of Nepali Congress, Nepali Congress (D), United Left Front, People's Front, Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi), Nepal Workers and Peasants' Party, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist and Leninist). All of them along with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) wanted the monarchy to be replaced with a Democratic, Socialist, and Republic state as the immediate goal after the People's Movement II.

After 19-days of mass protest and unsuccessful stiff resistance from the absolute monarchy represented by King Gyanendra Bikram Shah, Nepal ushered in a Democratic republican model of political governance duly announced in the first meeting of the reinstated House of Representatives on April 28, 2006, and later on endorsed categorically in the very first sitting of the House (of the Constituent Assembly) on May 28, 2008. Girija Prasad Koirala assumed the role of Prime Minister in a newly formed 'interim government' supported by the 'Seven Parties Alliance'. In the meantime, Maoist rebels were yet to be placated and mollified to coax them into eschewing violence thereby palliating the suffering of victims of the 10-long years of armed conflict. The historic day arrived when then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the incumbent Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' (the then Maoist Chief) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on November 21, 2006 facilitating the Maoist rebels to join the mainstream parliamentary politics by surrendering arms, ammunitions and weapons in order to shun violence. A decade of 'insurgency' - an armed conflict came to an end in Nepal, thanks to the 2006 CPA. 

The CPA called for both sides to fully commit themselves to uphold all international human rights laws and civil liberties and allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation. Amongst other things, the CPA mandated the state to form the National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission and Truth Commission. However, displaced citizens and surviving victims of the insurgency era are still demanding respectful rehabilitation and social integration to overcome their physical handicaps and mental trauma. The Government of Nepal took seven and a half years after the signing of the CPA to promulgate the Act for setting up the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappearances (CIEDP), Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in May 2014. Even Article 33 of the Interim Constitution, 2007 made a provision to the CPA and mandated the government to guarantee relief, recognition, and rehabilitation for families of the deceased and those who were rendered disabled during the armed conflict. The Interim Constitution stressed the need for devising special programs to rehabilitate displaced persons, compensate for damaged property, and rebuild infrastructure. It also recommended setting up a high-level 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' to investigate individuals involved in serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity during a decade-long armed conflict. This is how two separate commissions, namely the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappearance of Persons (CIEDP), were set up in February 2015.

However, there was a lacuna spotted in the Transitional Justice Act, 2014 by Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, and the victims of conflict-era abuses related to human rights abuses. The government registered a bill to amend the TRC Act 2014 in the Parliament Secretariat in March 2023 to incorporate all the suggestions extended by Human Rights activists and conflict-era victims. The Law, Justice, and Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives is scrutinizing the Bill. The consensus is yet to be forged to pass the amended TRC Bill in the newly revised form. Conflict-era victims have already tabled a 27-point demand to be incorporated in the amendment bill of the TRC Act 2014. The TRC Act in its present form is not victim-friendly as it espouses blanket amnesty to the perpetrators of serious human rights abuses such as abduction, sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrest, disappearance, torture, and, so on. The Supreme Court struck down the provisions of awarding blanket amnesty on February 26, 2015. The Supreme Court observed that the TRC Act infringed upon the provisions of the constitution and international obligations of Nepal, and recommended several amendments to it.  However, the government filed a petition to overturn the ruling but the court rejected it on April 27, 2020. This shows the dillydallying approach of the government on the issue of the transitional justice process. Therefore, it is not a surprise for the world to know that both the CIEDP and the TRC have been rendered dysfunctional despite several thousand complaints of serious human rights violations lodged by the victims.

Reparation is an important pillar of transitional justice and must not be treated as a substitute for other instruments of transitional justice such as truth-seeking, prosecution, and institutional reforms to ensure non-repetition of violence and a sense of obtaining justice. This is why conflict victims and human rights defenders cautioned against projecting reparation as a substitute for other pillars. It must not be used in a way of incentivizing victims’ silence. If victims deny to accept any compensation without revealing the truth of human rights abuse followed by investigation and prosecution, then it is to be treated as interim relief’. All victims of human rights abuse have a right to reparation. The circumstances of all the victims are not the same and, hence, the scale of reparation varies as per their economic class, gender, age, and social identity. Women victims experience different levels of abuse and undergo different levels of suffering than men victims do. Similarly, landless victims will have different types of reparative needs than the displaced urban victims. The government must prepare a comprehensive plan of reparation before it becomes too late to work on it. Needless to say, it is getting to be justice delayed is justice denied. And the question still stands: When will the peace process will conclude in Nepal?

(Binod Kumar Pathak is an editor, educator and academician)



Comments

Related News

Moral decay and legitimacy to govern

Because of the composition of the House of Representatives, the coalition government is the compuls…

Nepal worries about its most dangerous glacial lake

Kinjum Sherpa is intimately connected to the high Himalayan landscape in north-east Nepal that she …

Can socialist coalition deliver Nepal's prosperity?

Nepal was recommended for graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category to be a 'd…

Boksiko Ghar: Is a woman’s emancipation possible in Nepal?

A cinema hall in South Australia last night was full of Nepali cinephiles ranging from teenagers wh…