When the then seven-party alliance which came to power following the restoration of the then dissolved House of Representatives and the then rebel Maoists signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2006, they had agreed in writing that the entire peace process – management of the Maoist combatants and their arms and cases of grave human rights violations committed by the state and the Maoists during the decade-long insurgency – would be settled within six months from the date of signing the CPA, and the new constitution would be drafted within two years of the election of the Constituent Assembly. Both the goals set by the concerned stakeholders were not completed within the timeframe. It took six years to draft the new constitution while the peace process has still remained elusive even though it has been 15 years since the signing of the CPA. Parliamentary forces and the then rebel Maoists have formed many governments since the CPA, but all of them have failed to conclude the transitional justice, based on the Truth and Reconciliation Act-2014 (TRC), which authorised the two commissions to recommend amnesty and mediate cases even in cases of grave crimes and gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances. The apex court and the UN have not recognised the transitional justice mechanisms.
The issue of rights violations committed during the conflict will remain unsettled unless the TRC Act is amended
Marking the 30th International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Monday, three international human rights organisations have urged the Nepal government to act immediately to disclose the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons. The fate of and whereabouts of more than 1,300 possible victims of enforced disappearance are still not known. Under the TRC Act, as many as 60,000 complaints have been received since its formation.
However, it has failed to complete the investigation of even a single case, let alone settling cases of enforced disappearances. Not a single person suspected of serious human rights violations committed during the period has been brought to justice.
As the TRC Act has failed to address the grave human rights violations committed during the insurgency, the international human rights bodies have stressed that Nepal's justice system should take up the cases of enforced disappearances and prosecute the alleged perpetrators where sufficient admissible evidence exists. They have urged the government to promptly enforce the Supreme Court rulings and permit the regular courts to try cases of enforced disappearances and other grave international crimes committed during the conflict-era. The way the political parties that were part of the conflict are engaged in power sharing at the centre, it is unlikely that the TRC Act, which has been rendered a toothless tiger, will be able to settle the cases of rights violations committed by the state and the Maoists, who have always in power since the signing of the CPA.
The issue of rights violations committed during the insurgency will remain unsettled and the victims will keep languishing in despair unless the TRC Act is amended as per the Supreme Court rulings and international standards. Justice delayed to the conflict victims is justice denied to them.
The government's bid to build maternity and gynaecology-related hospitals in all the seven provinces to expand their services is most laudable. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Nepal is still high, although it has come down drastically over the decades.
Its goal to reduce the MMR to 125 per 100,000 live births in 2020 could not be met largely due to the pandemic. There is a need to expand institutional delivery rate to prevent women from dying during childbirth or complications thereafter. The government has been providing free delivery services in the state-run health facilities, but it is not always feasible to reach a pregnant woman to such a facility in time due to the distance.
The coronavirus pandemic has complicated health matters with hospitals, both public and private, giving priority to treating COVID-19 patients.
With transportation coming to a halt or running irregularly, many women have been forced to deliver babies at home. A good maternity hospital in all the provinces would help save the lives of many women even during the pandemic while also saving a lot of resources as patients have to be flown to the capital in helicopters during a life and death situation.
A version of this article appears in the print on September 1, 2021 of The Himalayan Times.