EDITORIAL: Sense of justice

At long last, nine years after the peace process began in the country, the two commissions Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons  were set up whereas under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, they were to be established within six months.

The formation of these commissions was also widely criticized on the grounds that these did not meet the internationally accepted standards, and the Supreme Court too ruled in favour of meeting all accepted international norms.

The main objective of these commissions is indeed the resolution of conflict-era cases through a reconciliation process between the perpetrators and the victims and their families. These commissions had called for filing of complaints by victims or their families and friends.

The perpetrators might well be anybody – particularly from the ex-rebels or from the State.

Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha has said that regular courts cannot do justice to conflict victims. In conflict-era cases, the principles of transitional justice, not the principals of criminal justice, should be applied, according to him.

Already several cases had been filed in the regular court against human rights violations by conflict-era actors, and in some of them, the court has even delivered its verdicts.

As the two commissions exist for contributing to reconciliation and justice delivery, the attorney-general is partly right in his view that all the criminal-looking cases cannot be settled by the regular court.

As he has said, the victims or their families should be given adequate monetary compensation and the commissions should have enough resources to complete their assigned duties.

This view is right also to the extent that if a conflict-era case is filed in a regular court, say for homicide, the court sentences the perpetrator but the victim or his or her family does not get any other compensation or relief.

But the feeling of outrage among many victims is so intense that they will be satisfied only if the perpetrators are brought to justice rather than they are given a few lakh rupees.

Four categories of heinous crimes which cannot be forgiven in the name of transitional justice have been identified for the purpose – sexual assault, killing somebody after abduction, enforced disappearance and torture.

A special court or a regular court should hear such cases can be a matter of debate but provided that the trial, hearing and judgement can carry high credibility of objectivity, impartiality, fairness and justice that point should not make much difference.

But the main thing is that the victims should feel a sense of justice done to them, even belatedly. If they are not satisfied, they should be able to knock at the door of a higher court.

The idea of transitional justice also means healing the scars of the conflict era, and if that does not happen, the whole purpose of putting this mechanism in motion will be defeated.

We should also take into account international standards, and if we cannot convince the international community and justice machinery that we are doing real justice to the victims, our actions may not win international legitimacy.

Health risk

Brick kilns, which are essential for construction and infrastructure development, are the major factors causing environmental degradation in areas where they have been set up.

It is because they belch heavy amount of smoke and dust particles in the sky polluting the surrounding environment.

Most of the brick kiln factories are located near the heavily populated settlements and are operated without using the modern technology aimed at reducing smoke and dust particles.

A report from Phidim, Panchthar has stated that eight brick kilns are operated in the urban areas and they are causing pollution to community forestry and human settlements.

The local authorities granted permission to the operators to set up the factories close to the human settlement and forest areas without considering the long-term adverse impact they may cause on health, forest and water resources.

The local authorities and people have repeatedly asked the proprietors of the brick kilns to install modern equipment to reduce the smokes and dust particles. But they have ignored these calls. Indeed, they have generated employment and revenue.

But they cannot play with public health and the local environment.