EDITORIAL: Serious warning

It seems that the real conflict victims have not come forward to both the commissions due to their distrust of the commissions formed under a political compromise

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) were mooted in the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that ended the decade-long armed conflict in 2006. A provision to this effect had also been included in the Interim Constitution based on which the TRC and CIED were formed in February last year. Eleven months have already passed since the formation of the two separate commissions to deal with the cases of gross human rights violations by the state and the then rebel Maoists during the conflict which claimed the lives of about 17,000 people, almost half of them security personnel, and to find out the actual status of the enforced disappearances. Neither the government nor the then rebel Maoists, which have split in many factions, have actual records of persons still missing. The two commissions, which were formed following the mounting pressures from the Maoists themselves and international community, were mandated to complete the tasks within two years with recommendations for legal action against the rights violators, reconciliation approach between the perpetrators and victims and possible reparations for the conflict victims.

It has been 11 months since their formation, however, both have yet to get the required regulations endorsed by the cabinet. The way both the commissions are working without the regulations it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with their findings on rights violations and transitional justice to the victims within the deadline. The TRC chief Surya Kiran Gurung has lamented that his commission did not get enough support from the government, stakeholders, security personnel, people at the grass-roots level - though they have already held interactions in 31 out of the 73 conflict affected districts. The urgency displayed by the Maoists before the formation of the fact finding missions is not shown now. Surprisingly, even the conflict victims have not shown much enthusiasm to lodge complaints about the rights violations they went through either by the state or by the rebel Maoists due to deficit of trust on these bodies.

The TRC chief has seriously warned that the international community, such as the United Nations, might intervene in the matter if both the transitional justice mechanisms fail to address the issues of human rights violations and cases of enforced disappearances within the set time. The international community is waiting for both the commissions to come out with their findings and recommendations for appropriate remedy. The government and other stakeholders must cooperate with the fact-finding missions as per their expectations so that the perpetrators can be booked for rights violations, reconciliation made between the perpetrators and victims on minor cases of rights violation and over compensations given to the conflict victims. It seems that the real conflict victims have not come forward to both the commissions due to their distrust of the commissions formed under a political compromise, mainly to bury the heinous crimes committed by the state and the then rebels, who are now part of the government. But the international community will not keep silent if the commissions fail in their missions.

Save biodiversity

Human encroachment of the Chitwan National Park should be taken up seriously. At one time the park was rich in biodiversity with many wildlife species. But these have been threatened due to the wanton encroachment over the years. If this is to continue then the flora and fauna of the national park would be endangered. The sanctuary has already lost as much as 1,208.2 hectares of forest land due to the encroachment. The political parties are also to be blamed for this rampant encroachment making it difficult to evict the defaulters because it is proving to be very difficult to evict them as they enjoy their protection.

Many people have settled in the park as they had to leave their villages because of disasters like floods, fire, landslides and even earthquakes. A way out should sought to halt the encroachment of forests throughout the country. Perhaps the punishment for those convicted for encroachment is not sufficient to dissuade them. They can be imprisoned for two years and fined up to Rs. 10,000 under the present regulation. The biodiversity of the country is in great peril.