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Where are they?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Peshal Kumari Wagle, 59, attends an event organised by the ICRC to mark the International Day of the Disappeared in Kathmandu on Tuesday. Her son, Gopi Krishna Wagle, was abducted by a group of unidentified men from Tandi, Chitwan in August 1999. Nearly two decades later, she is still searching for her missing son. Photo: Om Astha Rai

As Nepal marks the International Day of the Disappeared (IDD) on Wednesday, hope is fading for the families of the 1,300-plus Nepalis disappeared by the security forces and Maoist guerrillas during the conflict 1996-2016.

The extended one-year tenure of the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) is expiring in just six months, but all it has done so far is collect complaints from the families who were detained by both sides and never heard from again.

At a program organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kathmandu on the eve of the IDD on Tuesday, the CIEDP Chief Commissioner Lokendra Mallik admitted that the investigation will not be complete in its remaining tenure. The ICRC has been collecting its own data about the disappeared families, and has a list of 1,344 individuals.

As the CIEDP seeks another extension, possibly longer this time, the families of the disappeared are increasingly disillusioned, and are angry at the CIEDP for its sluggishness and apathy.

“No more excuses, we need results,” said an angry Keshab Khanal, whose father was taken away by the army from their house in Syangja. A decade after the end of the war, he does not know whether his father is dead or alive.

“If you (CIEDP Commissioners) cannot find out what happened to my father and other people like him, you should resign,” he said. “Stop pretending to be working.”

Purni Maya Lama, whose husband was abducted and murdered by Maoists in Kavre, said: “People here make a big fuss when a dog goes missing, but no one is concerned about my missing husband. If he is really dead, show me where he was buried.”

Ram Bhandari, Chair of the National Network of the Families of the Disappeared (NEFAD) whose father was disappeared by the Army, said: “The government is now run by those who ordered detention and abduction of our family members. If the CIEDP just follows government instructions, we cannot expect anything from them.”

But Mallik said the Commission’s hands are tied in the absence of a strong law criminalising enforced disappearances: “Our mandate is limited to finding the truth about the disappeared, filing charge sheets against the perpetrators and recommending reparation for the families of the victims. We cannot go beyond that even if we want to.”

The Commission has complained about the lack of a strong law, time and resources. And without all this, it is unlikely to meet the needs of the families of the disappeared for truth, justice and compensation.

The ICRC has once again reminded the Nepal government of international covenants that all parties to a conflict must do everything possible to prevent people from going missing, and must clarify the fate of those who disappear.

“The legal obligations regarding Missing Persons continue to apply even a decade after the end of the conflict,” said Andre Paquet, head of the ICRC mission in Nepal. “The common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions applies also for post-conflict situations.”

Last year, the ICRC had published the list of 1,334 persons who are still missing in Nepal. This list will be updated on Wednesday when the entire world marks the IDD with this year’s theme: where are they?

Om Astha Rai

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One Response to “Where are they?”

  1. Anonimous on Says:

    Yes where are they?

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