The right to know

  • The probe panel’s report on the Madhes violence in 2015 and 2016 must be released

Mar 27, 2018-

Madhes-based parties are agonising over whether to join the KP Sharma Oli government or not. As per media reports, constitutional amendment and several ministries have been promised as a quid pro quo for coming on board. Amid this situation, neither the Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum Nepal (SSF-N) nor the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) have raised the issue of revealing the report of the high-level enquiry commission submitted to the previous prime minister. 

In 2016, when the constitutional deadlock was at its peak, the Nepali Congress, Maoist Centre and Madhes-based parties signed a three-point agreement. The second stipulation states that a high-level commission led by a former Supreme Court justice would be formed to probe incidents of killings, arson, vandalism and violence during the Madhes movement. Accordingly, in September 2016, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal administration set up the commission under retired senior justice Girish Chandra Lal. 

In December 2017, the commission submitted a 709-page report to the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. The commission investigated 3,264 complaints lodged by victims, ordinary citizens and political parties. However, there has been no reaction from the government till date. Doesn’t this inaction show that the government cares little about human rights and the right to information?

Nepal has a bad trend of keeping probe reports secret. The reports of the Rayamajhi Commission and the Mallik Commission prepared after 

the two People’s Movements have not been made public. No one knows what’s in the report, and the alleged perpetrators who were government officials have been retired without facing justice. In those days, ordinary people were not aware about human rights and the importance of the reports of such commissions. Today, right to information (RTI) activism has spread, and people want to know what happened. 

On January 25, the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) wrote an open letter to the prime minister of Nepal raising concern about the government’s lack of response to the deaths of 66 persons including 10 police officers in the Tarai region of Nepal in 2015 and 2016. The BHRC asked about the development of the Lal Commission’s report, the recommendations included in it and the steps the government would take to ensure compensation to the victims. The committee also wanted to know what steps the government would take to strengthen the mechanism to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, including further guidance and training to the police on the use of force and firearms. Likewise, it asked about making further investigations and prosecuting the perpetrators.

There are many reasons why the Lal Commission’s report must be made public. One, it will help to establish that human rights violations were at their peak during the Madhes Movement besides clearing the confusion surrounding the Tikapur incident. Two, international communities will have faith in Nepal that it has zero tolerance for human rights violations. Three, Nepali citizens will feel that the state has upheld their constitutional right to information. Four, the existing trust deficit between the state and the people will be mitigated. Five, most importantly, after the report is made public and the perpetrators are punished as per its recommendations, the people can get on with their lives and the country can move forward on the path of peace and harmony. The report includes statements from civil society members about why there are frequent agitations in the Tarai/Madhes and how to prevent them. 

The political parties need to get serious about the report of the Lal Commission. This is particularly true for the Madhes-based parties as forming the commission and investigating the killings was their agenda. They have to persuade the Oli government to make the report public. Moreover, the Oli administration should take this as an opportunity to win the confidence of the Madhesi people as its predecessor the Deuba administration did not make it public. Most importantly, all human rights activists in Nepal including civil society members should be vocal and pressurise the government about the necessity to make the report public.  


Chaudhary holds a Bachelor of Laws degree

Published: 27-03-2018 09:24

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