Justice delayed

  • Death of Nanda Prasad is an indictment of the callousness of the state and political parties
Justice delayed

Sep 23, 2014-

Nanda Prasad Adhikari has died. Along with his wife Ganga Maya, he had been on a hunger strike for almost a year, demanding that the state punish the perpetrators of his son’s murder in 2004. Nanda Prasad’s death is an indictment of the callousness of the state authorities and their failure to establish suitable transitional justice arrangements, even though eight years have elapsed since the end of the armed conflict. None of the political parties or any institution of the state treated the Adhikari’s couple’s hunger strike with the seriousness it deserved. Efforts by politicians to reach out to them were mostly perfunctory. On occasions, the state treated the Adhikaris more as a hindrance than its responsibility. On one occasion, the government even placed them in a mental hospital. No doubt, such cynical behaviour by the government only strengthened the determination of the Adhikaris in their struggle for justice.

Nanda Prasad’s death, however, also reveals the tremendous difficulties involved in ensuring justice in a post-conflict society where opinions are polarised. It has to be said that the campaign that demanded the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the murder of the Adhikaris’ son was wrongheaded. Human rights activists campaigning in the Adhikari case treated it in isolation. They advocated that this case be treated as a simple criminal issue. The problems with the campaign to arrest the perpetrators were evident in the impact they had in the victims’ movement. Many victims grew aggrieved with the campaign and questioned why human rights activists were focusing so much on one individual case and ignoring the many others who were killed during the conflict. Many conflict victims felt that the manner in which rights activists took up the Adhikari case, in fact, undermined the victims’ own efforts to gain reparations and justice for their families. Many victims groups now state that rather than talking up individual cases, the focus should be on establishing credible transitional justice mechanisms that address violations in a holistic manner and focus on reparative rather than retributive justice.

It would be a mistake if the Adhikari case continues to get singled out. The focus should be on establishing a credible Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that will provide reparations for victims, enable collective and individual healing, and move forward with prosecutions in emblematic cases. As a recent report by the International Centre for Transitional Justice states, there is a need for the development of a comprehensive reparations policy that will provide victims with social, psychological and economic support. Rather than taking a purely legalistic approach to justice, it is time to take a broader view of the post-conflict transition, one that internalises the need for victims’ to be brought to the forefront and have their voices heard.

Published: 24-09-2014 09:24

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