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Hopes for civil war justice dwindle in Nepal after a decade of impunity

  • Published at 06:20 pm February 14th, 2017
Hopes for civil war justice dwindle in Nepal after a decade of impunity

A decade after the end of the conflict between the Nepalese army and the Maoist guerrillas, hopes have begun to dwindle for the families of the nearly 3,000 people missing and 58,000 tortured and killed during the war from 1996-2006.

The transitional justice mechanisms set up to investigate the war-era cases have now been operating for two years without any significant headway.

On a rainy night in July 2014, a squadron belonging to the People's Liberation Army appeared at the doorstep of Ganesh Neupane, a health assistant in the southwestern Nepalese district of Dang, and asked him to go with them. Neupane agreed, believing that some injured or sick Maoist might require his assistant.

The following day, his body was found, with seven bullet holes in it, barely three kilometers from his house. The guerrillas killed him for allegedly spying for the other side, but his 42-year-old-son Deependra stressed that he was an ordinary health worker who did not have any contact with the security forces.

Neupane's family filed a complaint against the man who shot him, but 12 years down the line, the alleged culprit is still walking free, Deependra said. The case of the Dhakal family is not very different, except that in their case the perpetrators were the Nepalese security forces.

In January 1999, Rajendra Dhakal, a human rights activist with a Maoist ideology, was taking part in a meeting in the central district of Tanahun when a police patrol arrested him and two local teachers.

The teachers were freed two days later, but the activist was never seen again. His 28-year-old daughter, Manjima, recalls that the police did not allow them to meet him, and then later denied that he was even arrested. "We want his body alive or dead. Does the state want to spend our entire life fighting for justice?" Manjima said, lamenting how their complaints are falling on deaf ears despite that the two teachers are eye witnesses.

Thousands of Nepalese people like Deependra and Manjima were filled with hope as the government in 2015 announced the creation of Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) to investigate the current status of the missing, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to probe war era cases of murder, rape and torture.

Although eight years had passed since the peace agreement between the two sides brought an end to the civil war, the two bodies registered 2,864 cases of missing people and nearly 58,000 murders, rapes and torture.

According official records of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, around 16,000 people were killed, 1,400 went missing, 20,000 were tortured, and 25,000 were displaced during the Maoist insurgency between 1996 and 2006.

But after two years in action, the CIEDP and TRC are still to investigate a single case. While the term of the two commissions has been extended by another year, people have begun to lose hope of justice.

The commissions attribute the delays to the lack of qualified people taking part in the process and the absence of sufficient laws to bring the guilty to book.

The government has already prepared a draft law proposing maximum 20 years of prison for those responsible murders and disappearances, and 15 years plus a fine for rapists.

"The commissions wasted two years in gathering the complaints. I am least hopeful that they will deliver justice in next one year," Takma KC wife of pro-Maoist reporter Krishan Sen 'Ichchhuk', who was killed by the Nepal Army in June 2002, told EFE.

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