reprinted from Times of India
KATHMANDU: “When the People’s War ended, I thought I will finally get justice,” sobbed Devi Sunuwar as she watched a film made on her 15-year-old daughter Maina, who was arrested by the army in 2004, tortured to death and buried clandestinely. “But even after a peace agreement was signed in 2006, the government agreed to punish those guilty of killing my daughter and the court asked police to arrest her killers, the army men remain at large. I fought for justice during the civil war but now that we have peace, hope begins to desert me.”
“There is no justice in Nepal, no rule of law and no government,” says Dhoj Dhami, uncle of Jaya Lal Dham who was shot dead by security forces in Feb 2005 in Kanchanpur district after being tied to a tree and tortured. “I want to see a Nepal where... all those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice.”
The angry cry of 62 families with tales of suffering and a son or daughter or father missing in the course of the Maoists’ “People’s War” was resurrected in the capital Friday by two human rights organisations even as the prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, flew to his home town in Rautahat to host a tea party to celebrate the advent of Tihar, Nepal’s five-day festival similar to India’s Diwali.
Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum jointly released a report, “Still Waiting for Justice: No End to Impunity in Nepal,” that documents the frustrating lack of action over the 62 cases they have been following since the insurgency with the major parties ignoring their pledge in the peace pact signed three years ago to end impunity and bring human rights abuses to justice.
“A lack of political will and consensus, prevailing political instability, and a lack of progress in the peace process has meant the government has not delivered on its promises to prosecute these crimes, as set out in the 2006 peace agreement,” the two rights watchdogs said.
Though over 16,000 people died during the 10-year conflict and there are thousands of people missing still, not a single perpetrator has been punished by a civilian court, thanks to pressure by political parties on the police not to investigate certain cases and refusal by the Nepal Army to cooperate with police investigations.
“In several other cases, relatives are losing hope and are no longer actively pursuing the case, tired of constantly fighting obstacles put in their way by the police and other authorities,” the report said. Bhumi Sara Thapa, mother of Dal Bahadur Thapa and his wife Parbati Thapa, who were killed by security forces, told Advocacy Forum, “When I filed a First Information Report with the police, I had hoped that my family would get justice; the accused would be punished and my family would receive compensation for the living and education of my children. Although it has been years since I started struggling for justice, nothing has happened yet. I don't have much hope because I think the government is reluctant to provide justice.”
Advocacy Forum, that is fighting many of the cases on behalf of the victims’ families, and Human Rights Watch are asking the government to investigate and prosecute all persons responsible for abuses and set up a special unit of senior police investigators to investigate cases against army officers. They are also asking for the truth and reconciliation commission the ruling parties promised to form but then began dragging their feet.
The report also asks Nepal’s influential international donors to pressure the government to promote reform of security forces. “India has a major role to play,” Advocacy Forum executive director told TNN during the launch of an earlier repor last year. “The Indian government supports the Nepal Army with subsidised arms and training and there are close ties between the two armies. If India had urged Nepal to prosecute war criminals, the government would have listened.”