Culture of impunity in Nepal

The culture of impunity neither allows justice to the victims nor proper prosecution of the perpetrators of human rights violations. Today’s ignorance and silence sows tomorrow’s suffering and tears of victims. One of the most challenging post-CA election tasks seems to be the fight against the culture of impunity, which has been rooted in almost all spheres of political and social life in Nepal. In a recent case, even though the Supreme Court gave orders for the filing of a murder case against six persons, none of the accused has been arrested for investigation. Neither have the authorities filed any case against them. One of the accused has been elected a CA member.

In another case, the SC had, earlier this year, ordered the authorities to file a murder case against several army men on the charge of murdering Maina Sunwar, a 15-year old girl killed by army personnel in Kavre during conflict. However, the court order has been ignored. This tendency has been largely contributing to further violations of human rights. Justice requires a due process of law to bring the worst offenders to justice, which discourages such crimes in the future. But the violations of court orders obstruct due process of law.

It is easy for any political party in power to manipulate the authorities if they are weak. Therefore, the fight against impunity will face multiple challenges in the days ahead. During the Maoist conflict, both the rebels and the State committed serious rights violations. The government forces conducted extra-judicial executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and “disappearances.” The Maoists were responsible for political killings, abductions, extortion, recruitment of children into their militia, and intimidation of political opponents. Many of such cases can be challenged in the court. But the question is of their effective implementation, in cases where the victims get justice. The fear of threat and non-response from the government authorities will certainly jeopardise victims’ initiatives for seeking justice.

Similarly, the State and non-state actors involved in violence during the Tarai movement have to be brought to justice. The cumulative number of alleged perpetrators seems to be larger than the known figures. It is also another challenge that the movement for justice has to face.

The existing institutional set-up is also not favourable to the victims. Justice mechanisms are either weak or absent. How a Maoist-led government may respond to the need to punish the guilty is a matter of concern. What will be the fate of the signed agreements and understandings, including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of November 2006 and the 23-point understanding of December 2007 that reiterate formation of, among other things, a high-level Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)? How effective will the commission be if it is not given proper mandate to furnish strong recommendations in relation to bringing the perpetrators to justice? There are clouds of doubts.

In addition to the above, there are three major challenges the culture of impunity poses in the changed political context: a) alleged perpetrators in power, b) lack of political will to establish justice, and c) ignorance of victims’ voice. There is a danger of state-announced general amnesty for all crimes against humanity. This should be avoided.