Impunity Increased Due to Failure To Implement Peace Agreement.

Dr. Kundan Aryal

Chairperson, INSEC

Dr. Aryal, chairman of INSEC and an Associate Professor at the Central Department of Mass Communication, Tribhuvan University, has been actively involved in the field of human rights, social justice, and communication in Nepal for the past three decades. He served as an advocate for the enforcement of human rights and humanitarian law during the 10-year-long armed conflict. He was involved in collecting factual information regarding incidents of human rights He maintains the belief that any party should not compromise the respect for human rights and humanitarian law. In that regard, Ramesh Prasad Timalsina, the Editor of Insec Online, conducted an interview with Dr. Aryal. The edited portion of the interview is presented here:

The peace agreement has been in place for years. The concerns of the conflict-affected victims remain unresolved. In this regard, what is INSEC’s perspective?

The armed conflict lasted for a decade in Nepal. During the course of time, the political parties made efforts to resolve the conflict and establish peace. The comprehensive agreement put an end to violence by preventing murder and enforced disappearances. However, the responsibilities directed by the comprehensive peace agreement such as uncovering the truth and publicizing the incidents of brutalities, and human rights violations during the conflict, establishing social harmony, holding perpetrators accountable, and delivering justice to the victims have not been fully accomplished. Steps were immediately taken on a political level to bring the rebels into mainstream politics. Some issues were neglected as it was of no political benefit. The concerns related to the victims were overlooked and the main issues of the victims of the conflicts are still left unanswered. The task that was believed to be completed by setting a time limit according to the Peace Agreement has not been accomplished until now. It is obvious that it is not a matter of major concern to the political parties and hence the completion of the tasks has been delayed. Both parties were solely vested in their self-interest while signing the agreement. The victims were neglected.

The Peace Agreement was made a part of the Constitution, it is just the matter of the signatories. Was it necessary to address the pressure from the Nepali people for the implementation of this agreement? 

The political parties started focusing on power reinforcement and restructuring of peace. They failed to understand that the conflict would not end until justice was served to the victims. It seems like the political parties have forgotten that reaching to an agreement for political gain is not the resolution of the conflict.

Because, in the past decade and a half, the process of transitional justice has been carried out half-heartedly without paying attention to the interest, cooperation, and participation of the victims.

The fundamental principle for the solution of this problem is the political willpower. If any unjust incidents occurred during the conflict, it was necessary to address them in a legal manner. The peace obtained from that is permanent and sustainable. Even after such a long time of peace agreement, the concern of the victims has remained untouched due to a lack of serious efforts. Not only that, the impunity has increased as peace agreement transitional justice could not proceed further. If you look at such events, that reflects an increase in impunity. During the period of conflict, if violation of human rights and humanitarian law, and incidents of brutality were addressed appropriately, there would not have been a situation of impunities after the peace agreement. If justice incidents had proceeded relating to the incidents during that time, we would have embarked on a journey of peace and development. If the political parties had accomplished their assigned tasks timely and with honesty, there would not have been a situation of lawlessness and the government themselves acting against the rule of law.

Should we look at the current incident from the perspective of justice or politics?

There is no doubt that it can be perceived as a political incident. This matter has been accepted by committees and commissions formed at different times by the government. If this matter is addressed then the political forces are ready to cooperate in order to bring many changes within the state. There are different types of discrimination namely untouchability or caste discrimination, deprivation of access, various types of inequality, and discrimination on opportunities. The peace agreement was made to draw a roadmap of social justice by ending such discrimination.  Afterward, the reinstated parliament brought reforms to various issues. However, the work of the parties in providing justice to the victims of the conflict was not reliable, transparent, empathetic, and responsible. Regardless of any party ruling the government, the transitional justice process could not proceed as expected. There have been instances where individuals have been subjected to extrajudicial killings without any specific reason or cause. There will be no resolution to the pain endured within the society unless the queries of the forcefully disappeared, distressed, and unlawfully deceased citizens are addressed. Any individual is willing to make sacrifices for peace. The victims are the group that is mostly affected by the peace agreement. They never said they would not accept the peace agreement.

But it is essential to establish the truth of the incident, at least to some extent. Let’s remember the incident. Let’s seek judicial redress for the incident. The state does not fulfill its responsibility by simply providing some money without establishing the truth and creating records of the incident and the victim’s suffering. The victim must be asked what they want. What needs to be done? We should seek answers from the victims themselves. Based on their answers, certain actions must be taken. Some actions might be forgiveness while some may be compensation or relief. In order to determine that, the truth of the incident must be established. These factors came into play because the ten-year-old conflict was deemed political. It has never been mentioned anywhere that this issue has to be looked at from a legal perspective only. It is called transitional justice because of its political nature. The violations of human rights and humanitarian laws during the conflict and the incidents of excesses should be thoroughly investigated and the truth must be established and made public. The victims need to be provided with justice and appropriate remedies, and efforts must be made to foster social reconciliation and set a path toward lasting peace. But, by forming two weak commissions the task of investigating the truth and reconciliation of missing persons, was delayed for years. Even after that, it has been presented in the parliament to increase impunity.

If transitional justice does not go forward, will the regular law have the jurisdiction?

In certain circumstances, even if the executive and administrative bodies do not take action, it is essential for the judiciary to perform its duties. Any individual cannot be restricted from seeking justice through the judiciary. Putting a halt to justice by giving different excuses is not acceptable. In a democratic country, it is not acceptable to say do not go to court. That cannot be and must not be said. After experiencing a feeling of neglect, the conflict victims decided to pursue legal actions through the court system. It is also pressure to carry out timely work related to transitional justice. The most important concern is to gain the trust of the victim. Unless they trust, the work related to transitional justice will not be accomplished.

Since the current political power has the capacity to negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement, it is necessary to speed up the rest of the peace process so that the victims realize a sense of justice. If the transitional justice mechanism had gained the trust of the victims, they would not have knocked on the doors of the courts. The victims approaching the court for justice cannot be regarded in any other way.

 Don’t you think there is a lack of advocacy from the human rights community?

The human rights community is also an output of this society.  Therefore, it seems that this community also has political aspirations and prejudices. Although the method of warning seems occasional, it cannot be said that the human rights community has stopped cooperating with the movement to get justice for the victims. The human rights community who have introduced themselves as part of the human rights community ceases to be their part if they abandon taking the side of the victims. In the past, political parties have played a significant role, in reaching peace agreements to resolve conflicts. Post-conflict queries and matters to be resolved were not a part of their focus. As a result of this, the problems are static.

Now the amendment bill of Investigations of the Enforced Disappearances, Truth, and Reconciliation Commission Act 2071 presented in the Parliament should be passed in accordance with the commitment of Nepal regarding human rights and humanitarian law including the conflict victims, human rights community, and court decisions. The main thing is to establish the truth, to ensure that the victims do get justice and that impunity does not get more support. There is no alternative for political parties, the human rights community, the affected communities, and the international community other than approaching together in the same space to address these issues. There may have been a lack of unity in the past, now it is crucial to work together without any further delays

It is clear that one power gained strength through violence. In the reinstated parliament, that power has found its place even without elections. With the consent of the parties and without public opinion, they got legitimacy in the parliament. Regardless of the position in which they were elected in the subsequent elections, the power that reached the level of being in the government and running the government, sometimes in collaboration with others, appeared to be the most unconcerned with addressing the issues of the conflict victims. It was also clearly evident that there was a lack of interest in other political parties as well. It is the shared responsibility of everyone to ensure that the process of transitional justice is carried out fairly and justly. This is indeed a national issue. Everyone must have an understanding of this matter. Nepal needs to move forward in terms of lasting peace, social justice, and economic development.

Extracted from Prachi 2023 Edition