Nepali Times
By The Way
Cleaning out the closet


In July 2009, the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its final report in which Nobel laureate and country's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was listed as one of the accused. Sirleaf went on to fight her personal battle to convince the people and the court that her initial support for Charles Taylor was a mistake which she proved in the later years by contributing to his downfall.

In 2010, Newsweek listed her among the ten best leaders in the world, Time magazine counted her among the top ten female leaders and The Economist called her the best president the country has ever seen. The reason was simple: Sirleaf was honest and did what she could to reconcile a war torn nation by spearheading the formation of an empowered Truth and Reconciliation Commission which had the capacity to indict even the head of the state.

Presently, international attention is focused on two countries of the region which have recently emerged from devastating civil wars, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The Sri Lankan government has refused to admit its role in war crimes and set up a Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) which absolves state security forces of all charges. In Nepal, there is hope that the proposed truth commission and another one that is designed to look into disappearances will have broader jurisdiction and investigations will be more transparent.

The commissions must account for crimes committed by both sides.Although the Nepal Army has argued that it has already investigated its soldiers in a military court, and that civilian casualties are jurisdiction of the state, cases must be re-investigated by a civilian body.

The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the commission to look into cases of disappearances should be expanded beyond the period of active conflict to include the last four years of transition, especially the Madhes movement.

The Maoist leadership must rise above partisan politics and their leaders must shed personal fears in order to establish their international credibility as a legitimate political force. They must form an impartial commission with a strong mandate. The opposition, for its part, must not use the reconciliation process to earn brownie points or start a political witch-hunt. Similarly, Madhesi leaders have an important role to ensure that incidents like the Gaur massacre and mindless killings during the Madhes movement are fairly investigated.

Third, the legal standing of the commission's reports must be pre-determined. While amnesty and reconciliation in consultation with the victims might be a good idea, there has to be a provision which guarantees legal standing of the commission's investigations and forms a basis for further prosecution in the court of law.

We have seen in the past how commissions are formed, investigations are carried out and thick reports are filed, only to be shelved and gather dust. Thousands of families have waited six years for justice and it would add insult to their injury if these commissions also meet the fate of the Rayamajhi and Mallick Commissions.

The change in power structure and resource distribution may resolve political conflict, but it will not wash away individual resentment. The tormentor and the tormented cannot coexist without shedding the baggage of the violent past that brought them together. For that to happen, the minimum requirement is to tell the truth. Families have the right to know what happened, and the warring sides must show courage to tell them how and why the person was killed.

This week saw considerable progress in the peace process. The parties have expressed an unequivocal commitment to integrate the combatants by mid-April which will remove the last hurdle for declaring the new constitution. There are still unresolved issues of federal units and governance which will test the leadership's negotiation skills.

The parties must announce the formation of truth and disappearance commissions at the earliest. This will demonstrate that they mean business and buy them both time and goodwill needed to concentrate on constitution drafting.

Read also:
Federalism by any other name
After coming all this way, and in a hurry to meet the May deadline, we shouldn't adopt an authoritarian constitution

Truth without justice, RAM KUMAR BHANDARI
It would be better to have no Truth Commission at all than a toothless commission

1. Mark Edward Croy
Superb article...we can only hope that those who have claimed the right to govern will, at long last, govern Nepal in the manner the people deserve. We often expect more from politicians than we should, whether it is Obama in the U.S. or Bhattarai in Nepal. However, THEY choose these positions and THEY inspire hope and trust. We are just the people, surely we can place trust in our leadership? Surely, the Prime Minister can get what all agree is a pressing need to unify the country behind a truly democratic constitution and transparent government. The forces behind delay and distraction do not have Nepal's best interests at heart. Does the Prime Minister choose to slay these forces with an appeal to a new Nepal of open government and civil society participation? Or will he rely on the tried and true methods of his predecessors and maintain a political structure rotten to the core with egoism and corruption? We await the future, because that is what the people do - we wait. 

2. Jon Pandey
BRB has Ph D. He needs to act like a man with some brains. I give him some credit for throwing Gupta and the past police chief in jail. We the people need to see a lot more of this type of justice. BRB, remember you are public servant, not a master of Nepalis. Bring out a constitution of the people. The tainted and corruted Maoist killers as well as others from opposing forces must be tried and put in prison. The  truth and disappearance commissions must be formed tomorrow. No more delay. Nepal has so many pressing and serious problems. Its time we started solving them one by one. Serve the Nation, not your petty interest and ego.

3. Gary Parkinson
Ever spend time in Nepal during wartime Pandey?Probably not, just like most of the the other tourists who continually put all the blame on the maoists during wartime.Most of the atrocities during the war were caused by a police force and army with a total disregard for anyone"s rights.Check out any human rights year books between 1992 until the end of the war and they will convey the truth.Yes i do know what i am talking about as i spent a lot of time in Rolpa and Rukum during the war years.

4. Gary Parkinson
Not publishing my comments because they convey the truth.Typical nepali press,you print what you want and what suits you.Pathetic idiots do you know who i am?

5. Richard Walt
#4 Gary
Your utter lack of patience to wait for moderation of your comment is at best laughable!

6. Binu
Nice article Anurag...

7. KiranL
#3 and #4 just go to prove what an idiot this Gary Parkinson fellow is. No doubt, the police and army committed excesses.  But that doesn't absolve the war crimes of Maoists who killed thousands of innocent people. It is the selective memory of supporters of both sides which hinders truth, justice and reconciliation. But what really makes me impatient are jerks like Gary Parkinson who think they alone are on the right side of history and have a monopoly on truth. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)