8 yrs on, kin have only hope to cling on

- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu
8 yrs on, kin have only hope to cling on

Aug 30, 2014-

As the sun set beyond the Dharahara on Saturday, conflict victims lit 1,350 candles at Bhadrakali in the heart of the Capital, the figure signifying the approximate number of disappearances during the insurgency between 1996 and 2006.

Every year, on International Day of the Disappeared, relatives of those abducted and disappeared by the state as well as then-rebel Maoists gather to light candles in hopes of finding the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Eight years have passed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which heralded the dawn of the peace process and promised to make information on disappearances public in six months.

Despite recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission for action against those found guilty in the cases of forced disappearance, the government has failed to do anything concrete. Amid criticism, the government brought an Act on transitional justice in April, proposing a commission on truth and reconciliation.

Human rights lawyers and international rights organisations have expressed concerns over some provisions of the Act, while a total of 234 victims have filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court over its provisions, particularly on amnesty and reconciliation.

The Act has brought the issue of rights violations during the conflict back to public discourse. What has been discussed little is the issue of enforced disappearances. “The Act proposes a single commission, ignoring the Supreme Court order to form separate commissions of inquiry on truth and reconciliation and enforced disappearances,” said Ram Kumar Bhandari, coordinator of the National Victims Alliance, whose father was illegally arrested and disappeared by the state in 2001.

Most worrying for victims, the Act does not criminalise forced disappearance. He argued that the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) appeared lenient on government officials concerned. Clause 24 (d) states that if a person holding public office is found guilty of gross human rights violation, “the Commission may write to the concerned authority to take departmental action against her/him and the concerned authority”.

“Even in public discourse, the issue of the disappeared has been overshadowed by amnesty and reconciliation,” he argues. “The government has failed to assure, even in the law, that the whereabouts of our relatives will be made public.”

More than 1,300 people are believed to have disappeared during the war. The NHRC has confirmed 933 cases of disappearance, while it has registered 3,300 complaints about them. “The government appears reluctant given the involvement of Nepal Army and Nepal Police personnel in most cases,” said Bhandari.

Bed Prasad Bhattarai, acting secretary at the NHRC, said the delay to form the commissions to investigate conflict-era crimes has disappointed victims and rights defenders. “It is unfortunate that the government failed to take action against those recommended by the NHRC for action with evidence,” said Bhattarai.

Published: 31-08-2014 09:16

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