Nepali Times
This Is It
Justice is peace


Us Nepalis are known for our weak institutional memory. Out of sight means out of mind. Agni Sapkota, Prabhu Sah and Bal Krishna Dhungel are not in the headlines, so they have fizzled out.

Just a month ago, it seemed everyone in this country, except understandably the Maoists, wanted a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).People wanted the whereabouts of the disappeared to be made public and the murderers of people like Ujjan Kumar Shrestha to be punished. Today, nobody except the relatives of the victims want the commission. The TRC was, like everything else, just political ping pong.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai recently declared that the bills for truth and reconciliation and the disappeared are almost complete and both the commissions will be formed "before long". But then he went right ahead and refused an extension for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Any hope of having an effective TRC, even five years too late, has been dashed.

It is clear that by driving away the UN's human rights body, the Maoists want to deliberately weaken future commissions to deal with war crimes and ensure that they support its agenda of blanket amnesty.¬ Parties with militant wings, the army, police and the leaders of previous governments are only too happy to let the Maoists take the lead because they also have blood on their hands. It seems, justice which has been delayed for five years will now be denied forever.

All this directly enforces the state of impunity in the country. One after another, the government has rubbished orders issued by the Supreme Court. The prime minister is not just protecting convicted criminals, but openly saying individual investigations will¬ derail the peace process. Will it? It is more likely that reconciliation will be harder and justice will be a mirage if human rights abuses during the war are not addressed.

The architects of the war and those who ordered brutal crackdowns want South Africa to be a model and announce a mass amnesty. Every country is unique, and there are 20 other countries that have successfully completed or are working on truth and reconciliation processes. In some cases, culprits were convicted while some families agreed to forgive perpetrators and some cases were settled with reparations. But invariably, all cases were investigated and aired in public. The guilty had to admit to their crimes and the wrongfulness of their actions was established before they were considered for forgiveness.

¬ What the Maoists want here, however, is validation for their violence , especially the heinous crimes committed during the war. This is not reconciliation but betrayal.

There will be no lasting peace without justice for the victims of war. Post-conflict societies have used truth and reconciliation as a way to grieve, heal and move on. We, on the other hand, don't even want to hear the victims out. War mongers on both sides are so afraid of the truth and the violence they committed on the people, they are blackmailing the nation by saying that justice threatens peace.

Ideally, we should have been able to solve our own issues. We can't let foreigners manage our peace process forever. It's not particularly a proud moment when a foreign ambassador writes in the national media pressuring the government regarding human rights. This is what happens when, instead of protecting its own citizens, the state seeks to pardon itself for crimes committed against them.

The Maoists are getting the rap because they have the most to hide, but there are known war criminals in the security apparatus as well. It would benefit both sides to push a wishy-washy TRC that pardons all. If this happens, it would forever institutionalise violence and impunity in our society. War is often only a few miscarriages of justice away, and no Nepali wants to go down that road again.

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1. ushaft
Nice one ! Some additional material on the Truth commissions:

There is a good documentary about how some other countries which have gone through internal conflicts dealt with the aftermath. They created independent Truth and Reconciliation commissions. The documentary shows the harrowing process of revisiting past crimes. The commissions organize public hearings and allow societies to know what happened, forgive and to come to terms with the present.

The documentary is a good watch and its makers have agreed to make the Nepali version freely available on the net. The links to all the videos are available here:

2. manohar budhathoki
Bravo Rubeena. well-written! the last thing we want is for violence to be institutionalised in our society. Justice must be done. No one can expect pardon or forgiveness without confessing to their crimes and being truely repentful first. We can not allow the perpetrators vindication for their atrocities! Ever notice how smug the killers look after all they have done? The Nepal army is also guilty of human rights violations during the conflict and must be investigated but do not forget it is the maoists who first started this cycle of violence and counter-violence. Remember Ganesh Chilwal and Gyanendra Khadka? It is the maoists who started all this by actively recruiting people for their campaign, by attacking policemen as they slept in their posts. By dragging teachers in front of the school children and sometimes, their own families and slaughtering them like pigs. I think it is unfair to categorise the maoists and the nepalese security forces in the same bracket.

3. Poudyal

Excellent wrting!  

There is just one bit that we might give us some hope if these guys are not serious - the ICJ(although mostly for Africans and Asians) -if the powers that be, want it, Prachanda and his ilks could be dragged to the Hauge on his way to Singapore the next time round.

Perhaps it is time for us to lobby the ICJ and get this culprits to the they have done for the politicians invovled in the post election violence in Kenya and Bagbo - the former President of Ivory Coast recently. 

4. Nirmal

When analysing the different factors of recently struck deal on TRC with respect to the fate of perpetrators of the heinous crimes against humanity, there are some question marks that I think should be answered with utmost seriousness by everyone of us. If we think we are not going to trade injustice for the peace.

1. When we've less than 6 months left to write the constitution, the Maoists, the NC, the UML and the Madhesi parties have struck a deal on the TRC but by barricading it behind the responsibility of pencil-pushing political men, who will propose to reconcile both sides and cover the wounds -which is still bleeding- of the war in name of justice by cash or some ad-hoc measures of politics and that without the permission and involvement of competent authority ie the judiciary. Hillarious. This is a decision to move the conflict to the coterie of political class to mediate the wrongdoings of the war as per their wish. At this hour of politics, everyone knows that the Maoists do not want to deal with this issue honestly less will the NA, having its officials from former RNA being implicated in gross human rights violations. But If the NC and the UML think that by forming the TRC they will lessen their responsibility then they are wrong. Is not this a cowardice act of this political class above all of the Maoists in the mask of addressing the injustice done during the war?

2. Since the date, many people confused amnesty with amnesia -a partial or total loss of memory-, with the habit of forgetfulness. But after the return of the Maoists to power, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, one of the most admired "intellectual" between kathmandu's chattering class has converted this state of oblivion to a deliberate exercise of laundering the Maoists atrocities, see how he tried with Dhungel's case and see how the Madhesi leaders are trying with their ones. More than half a dozen years after the 12 points peace pact , isn't their unwillingnes to break up with their brutal past is clouding the image of the Maoists being democratic?

3. Clearly, the current political class do not want their atrocities to come to light even less the Maoists who have already assumed that the victory in CA elections have already validate their brutal acts committed during the war, a chilling conclusion for many of us. But how come the democracy validates atrocities? It is a healthy exercise to have hopes but since when the hope has become a blind faith, ladies and gentlemen?

4. No doubt that it is a part of the present day to recognise the truth:that in Nepal there are many Maoists, some of them joined because of will, some because of greed, some because of fear and many because of fraustrations. But it is worthy to ask if Nepali democracy has already become Maobadi too?

This political class has passed the ball into TRC's court, a commission which will be controlled by party men. This is a perfect summary of the real face of this political class. The formation of TRC with total jurisdiction is not more than an intention to recover their already vanished credibility. But it's not the way to repair the humiliating damage that the victims of war received. And the justice will not be a mission possible by giving TRC the last word. 
So, we're left with two options initially a) Accept what may dictate TRC or b) Evaluate the outcome of TRC by the competent authority i.e. the judiciary and allow it to give the final verdict . But since the dictates from third party are always subjective and TRC have some sorts of totalitarian impulses of political parties I think the judiciary should have the final say on the issue as it is the only one source from where the justice emanates.

5. ushaft
Question: Lord Bishnu's daarhi-form avatar BRB also said that there will be noone left if we go after everyone involved in the war. Because, well, everyone was in one way or the other involved in his war. So, why do we need TRC ?

My Guess: Someone should tell the god-form PrimeMinister or hammer it in his head that those who participated in the war do it with the information that they might get killed at anytime. The government has a legal right to kill those who participate in a war against itself. So, there is no question of "investigating" the government personnel who killed their enemies in the battle field- they should be rewarded instead. The investigations should only be carried out for those who violated human right laws, killed people in detention or after arrest and so on. This should already decrease the number of cases to far less than the "everybody" BRB thinks was involved in his war.

6. Iona
Very well said - and let's keep these cases in the media headlines!

7. Gopal Shrestha
TRC -  this must be a funny joke for the Maoist. They have blood of innocent Nepalis on their hands, yet the Nepalis bow to them and eat the scrap given to them by the Maoist. We should also talk about the role India played in the slaughter of our innocent brothers and sisters. The All the Maoist have done is killed and plundered and looted Nepal. Kick the Indian Ambassador out of Nepal. The Indians leaders are like Maoist, they have always exploited the weakness of Nepal and Nepalis.  Its too bad that RPP or the Nepali Army are like ( napunsuck, cowardly), they cannot bring Maoist to justice, what a shame for the brave men that serve in Nepali Army. Men that are known for valor.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)