Truth has to be Established as to Whether or Not the Disappeared People are Alive

1302255392Shobha Gautam

Founder Chairperson,IHRICON

The Government and the political parties of Nepal are not honest towards the problems of the disappeared persons. The UCPN-Maoist inflicted torture, killed and disappeared numbers of innocent people during the conflict. So, despite its rhetoric to establish a Commission on Disappearances, the UCPN-Maoist party does not want this in reality. So far as the other parties are concerned, they are also responsible for the disappearances that occurred during the time when they were in power. They have admitted responsibility regarding human rights violations committed by the security forces. So, the parties have, on purpose, protected the officials in the security forces who commanded the disappearances. It seems that political parties are being alienated by the people but such alienation, although it could be viewed as punishment for the leaders, will be detrimental for the country in the future.

Before we think about the possibility of the disappeared persons returning home, it is important to know how they were disappeared. It has been confirmed with evidence that some of the disappeared persons have been already killed. There is no possibility of their return. Similarly, some others have gone abroad once they were released by the conflicting parities. It is likely that such people will return. It is very important to find out if people who are still thought to be disappeared are in fact dead. Leaders of the political parties, the responsible people in the security forces and the principal figures of the UCPN Maoists combatants have to be held responsible and it is urgent that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established for this. The bill tabled in the legislative parliament has to be passed. Truth has to be established through this and any one found guilty should be punished.

If the disappeared persons have already been killed then it is impossible that they will return so their perpetrators have to be brought to justice. This will be an important step towards mitigating the existing impunity in the country. Furthermore, the disappeared persons dependents have to be provided with compensation and it has to be ensured that they will have a bright future. The current compensation of one hundred thousand rupees that is given to the families of the disappeared is only an interim relief. If the Government takes it as a complete compensation it will be an injustice to the families of the disappeared persons. Nothing can replace the loss of life but the state can come up with some concrete programs and policies that can ease the pain and problems of the families of the disappeared persons.

If the Government and political parties of Nepal present themselves honestly before the people, if they can bring the human rights violators and abusers to justice and if they can take steps towards promoting the rule of law and ending impunity, the problems of the disappeared persons will be solved.

 

1302256820Bandana Rana

President, SAATHI

The issue of disappeared persons has to be viewed from a gendered approach. While there may be numerically more men then women who have been disappeared, women are more greatly affected by the disappearances. The Economic, mental and health related impacts of the disappearances affect women more than men. However, we tend to have a blanket approach to the issue. Political parties and the Government should not view the issue with such an approach. The needs and problems of the families of the disappeared persons differ, thus, the families have to be helped accordingly. While conducting workshops and programs in different places, we find that families of the disappeared persons often express their grievances over their recognition or lack thereof. Many have been recognized as disappeared persons based on wrong information and political influence. Families of the disappeared, especially women, have voiced that the families of real disappeared people have not been provided with any compensation.

 

Nothing can be said right now regarding whether or not the disappeared are alive. However, the families are now less optimistic that their loved ones are alive. Not knowing their whereabouts causes the greatest pain. Through counseling we have come to the realization that disappearances inflict more pain on the families than death. Therefore, the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a must towards obtaining justice. Truth has to be established through the commission. However, it has been perceived that political parties lack honesty and are therefore unable to establish such a commission. The parties fear that once the truth is established, accusations will be brought against them, possibly by other political parties.

 

If anybody has received compensation from the Government stating that the disappeared is no longer alive, then the Government is to blame. Before providing compensation, it has to be confirmed by the state that a particular disappeared person is no longer alive. We have to be clear on the mechanism and provisions in place which confirm the death of a disappeared. This will help to provide complete compensation to the victims families. The families of the disappeared have to be helped as per their need. If a person is supposed to receive compensation from the Government but does not, help loses its meaning. One hundred thousand rupees provided to the family of the disappeared persons is an interim provision. Many families expect help with their childrens education rather than monetary assistance. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 has emphasized the participation of women and other people who have been directly affected, in each step of a peace process. Therefore, when making programs and plans for the families of the disappeared, the participation of those people who have been directly affected must be ensured.

 

1302256849Mandira Sharma

Executive Director, Advocacy Forum

The whereabouts of the disappeared persons are still unknown. Years have passed, however, since the signing of the CPA, which contains provisions for a Commission on enforced disappearances. Additionally, the state has a responsibility to search and investigate the alleged perpetrators and make them answerable for their crimes by utilizing the criminal laws that are in place in the country. However the state has failed to do this, which shows that the Government and the political parties are not sincere towards the issue of disappeared persons.

 

It is difficult to infer about the life of the disappeared persons without investigations, however, based on our work experience, we have to state regrettably that many disappeared persons may not return to their homes. Having said this, it does not mean that we should close the cases regarding the disappeared persons. Rather, we have to stick to the efforts we have been making to find out the truth about the whereabouts of the disappeared persons. The truth has to be established as to whether or not the disappeared people are alive. This can be done only through an investigation. If the disappeared are already killed, every details like how, when and where the disappeared were killed should be made public and anyone involved in the killings have to be made responsible. Most of the crimes related to such enforced disappearances have not been investigated because police say that such cases have not been defined as crimes. Therefore, we emphasize that the National Human Rights Commission has to be active in such situations. We could make the persons involved in the disappearances responsible based on the evidences collected by the Commission. Investigations have to look at and prove who was killed by whom, and the ones responsible must be punished.

 

Some of the families of the disappeared persons feel that their loved ones have already been killed but they can not be sure of this. Thus, they face a dilemma as to whether or not they should perform the death rites. This has also made the issue problematic. If the families of the disappeared persons are sure that their disappeared members have been already killed and wont return, the authorities have to provide them with credible evidence. Many issues like pensions, the transfer of property, the rights of women and their relation with their husbands are connected with disappearances. Hence, the establishment of truth will solve many issues connected directly and indirectly to disappearances.

 

I think that whatever amount has so far been provided to the families of the disappeared as monetary help, should not be the final amount. Therefore, we have termed it interim relief. Once truth is established, the whereabouts are known and the perpetrators are made responsible; there have to be provisions such as reparations, economic compensation, rehabilitation and also amendments made to the law. We have been fighting for this. Without addressing the grave human rights concerns enshrined in the CPA the ongoing peace process in Nepal can not be completed. Many complex issues exist that may cause the peace process to take time, and we have to be wary as to whether or not the peace process is going towards the right direction. More importantly, the commitments made so far regarding the disappeared persons have to be fulfilled. People should not be deceived again and again. A high level Commission on Disappearances which was committed to by the CPA has to be established as per the current international standards. Furthermore, it has to be ensured that the victims and their families will get justice through the Commission and impunity wont be institutionalized. It has been proven by the investigations of NGOs, the NHRC and the OHCHR that some of the disappeared persons have been already killed, so investigations have to begin on such cases.

 

1302256862Sharmila Karki

Secretary General, NGO Federation of Nepal

The Government and the political parties of Nepal do not seem to have been sincere about the situation of the disappeared persons. So far a method to identify the whereabouts of the disappeared has not been established. The commissions enshrined in the CPA have not been formed. Based on this, it can be inferred that the State is not working towards solving the problem created by enforced disappearances.

 

As there are many cases where the disappeared has returned, we cannot conclude that the remaining disappeared wont return to their homes. However, chances are very low and their families hope has started to flag. The State has to be responsible for providing a solution to the problem of the disappeared persons and the rebellious party of the past also has to cooperate with the Government in this endeavor. Of course, some of the families have started to feel that their disappeared members are no longer alive. That could be an emotive expression but killings have to be confirmed legally, following proper and sufficient investigations into the cases. Certainly, relief provided to the families and dependents of the disappeared has different forms. One hundred thousand rupees provided by the Government can only be viewed as interim relief; what the families and dependents of the disappeared persons need is long-term support that can sustain a good standard of living and make their future better.

 

The problem related to disappearances has to be solved in a piecemeal fashion. If people feel that some of the perpetrators are forgivable they can be pardoned but this should be through a Reconciliation Commission. At the same time, mechanisms should also be established to ensure that punitive action can be taken if and where necessary.

 

1302256878Babita Basnet

President, Sancharika Samuha

The Government of Nepal and the political parties are not sincere towards the issue of disappeared persons. It has been enshrined in the CPA that the problems of the disappeared persons will be solved via the formation of a Commission. But, the formation of such a Commission has been overshadowed as a result of the power politics that have been prioritized in the country. If the concerned had been honest about the issue of disappeared persons, their whereabouts would have become known and every other detail about them would have already come to light.

 

The enforced disappearance of the family members is more painful than their death. Forgetting them relieves such pain in the cases of deaths but the families of the disappeared persons are perennially in a painful situation and are hopeful that their loved ones will return. It has been a long time since the disappearances occurred in Nepal so we can not be very optimistic that the disappeared will return. The family members are optimistic mainly because they have not seen the dead bodies of their loved ones. Some of the families face a dilemma as to whether they should perform the death rites of the missing people. Disappearances inflict more pain on women than on men; however, no concerned authorities have heeded their pains and problems.

 

If the disappeared persons have been already killed, the state and political parties have to confirm this. The UCPN-Maoists know how many people that they killed. They know this because the party was run under a chain of command at the time of the conflict. They have to know every detail of how, where and when a person was killed. Revealing the truth is necessary to proceed with a legal process. Although there is a lack of evidence, some families feel that the disappeared may not be alive. While interacting with us, they have expressed how they are compelled to live in a dilemma which they wish to be free from. For this, the disappeared persons families should be organized, and they have to get support from civil society and the media. It seems now that the problem of the disappeared persons is a concern only of the families whose members have been forcefully disappeared.

 

Money can not make up for the loss of life. However, the state has to come up with long term schemes of assistance for the families of the disappeared. The one hundred thousand rupees that is currently being given to the families of the disappeared, as interim relief, is a very nominal amount. The Government has to have programs and policies in the areas of health, education and accommodation for the families of the disappeared persons. Our peace process has forgotten so many humanitarian issues. There is fear that the peace process might be declared a success, without addressing humanitarian issues such as disappearances. The concerned authorities lack honesty and grave human rights concern, such as enforced disappearances, is dealt with as a trivial matter. I feel that civil society has to ensure that the Government realizes its responsibility and the families of the victim can get justice.

As Collected by Gopi Krishna Bhattarai and Raju Paswan