Monday, 27 May, 2024

Prioritise Transitional Justice

Hira Bahadur Thapa


Of late, a momentum has been generated to expedite the delivery of transitional justice in Nepal. A few events in this connection offer hopes for those who have been the victims due to the 1996-2006 armed insurgency. Thousands suffered until a comprehensive peace accord was signed between the government and the rebel group that fought against the regime.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)-initiated recent interaction among all the stakeholders, including the political leaders, who were at the helm of affairs when the insurgency was launched and the victims, is significant from the perspectives of resolving the prolonged issue of transitional justice. The victims have been assured by Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, both of whom are former prime ministers, that they would work united to bring the stalemated issue of transitional justice to an end keeping in view the legitimate concerns of the international community.
The international community is aware that the unresolved issue of transitional justice is likely to remain as a potential threat and may endanger the very peace achieved after long years of reconciliation efforts. Uniquely, Nepal's peace process was home-grown as there was no outside mediation when the rebels and the then seven major political parties sat for negotiations and came out with an agreement in 2006 with the UN as an observer of the signing of the accord. The UN supported its implementation.
No doubt that the UN has been trying its best to help strengthen the foundations of peace in Nepal and has thus displayed its sincere desire to see that the process is completed so that there is no chance of relapse of violence. This is why it has been raising concerns on the issue of transitional justice, which has seen unnecessary delay despite the government claims that it is committed to resolve the problem conforming to international norms and practices.
Transitional justice is needed in the aftermath of a civil war, or armed conflict or rebellion in order that injustice meted out to people during the difficult times could be redressed either through reconciliation or bringing the wrong doers to justice following internationally-accepted practices and norms.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a body that is established in nations that suffered conflict with a view to enabling both the victims and the oppressors to reconcile with truth and come to terms with each other in a true spirit of forgiveness. In this regard, TRC seeks to create a congenial atmosphere so that all sections of the society can adapt to the new situation having reconciled with the past mistakes.
But one must not conclude here that all cases would be handled in the same manner. There is no blanket amnesty, whatsoever, in order to convince the victims that the real culprits do not go scot free without facing the punishment which is due as per the provisions in the TRC. In the international community sometimes serious concerns are heard to draw the attention of the government to this aspect. Not surprisingly the Government of Nepal has assured them that it is committed to adhere to the international norms in making appropriate provisions in the TRC Act.
Another body to help the victims get their wounds healed is the Commission to Investigate the Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), which is set up to find out circumstances that led to disappearances and to reveal the actual position of those claimed to be disappeared.
The above two bodies, being so important in the area of transitional justice, have always been the issue of growing interest internationally. Time and again such issue has been raised either at the human rights forums or in Kathmandu, where the diplomatic representatives sometimes make interventions either by meeting with the concerned government officials or through submission of memorandums.
Very recently, such voices were raised on the eve of the departure of the Foreign Minister-led Nepali delegation to the current 74th session of the UN General Assembly (GA) and quite fittingly during his GA address our leader of the delegation Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has informed the august gathering in New York on September 10 to remain assured of Nepal's firm commitment to constitute the TRC and CIEDP in accordance with the international norms. He has further elaborated that the present government is very effortful to conclude the transitional justice process as quickly as possible and also in conformity with the international practice.
There is some valid argument on the part of the members of the world community seeing the undesirable delay of the conclusion of the transitional justice process, which the government then in 2006 had pledged to complete the same within six months of the signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). Disappointingly it has lingered due to unstable governments in the years that followed. More than a decade has elapsed before we could prove to outside world that Nepal is capable of bringing durable peace domestically not only in signing agreement but also in delivering the transitional justice.
The situation has changed politically for the better. Leaders from the ruling and opposition parties are demonstrating their sincere desire to complete the justice process. Fortunately, Nepal has a stable government enjoying two thirds majority in the federal parliament. Furthermore, leaders have realised their shortcomings in the past that caused delay in delivering transitional justice to the oppressed, who have been compelled to undergo enduring pain. With the commitment of the incumbent government to conclude the peace process and the pledge of opposition party to support the same by working united in this front has raised hopes among all the people.

(Thapa was Foreign Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2009. He writes on contemporary national and international issues. He can be reached at