TRC had registered 350 cases on Friday, which came down to 177 on Sunday
May 16, 2016- Since the nine-point agreement between the ruling CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) on May 5, the number of cases registered daily with the two transitional justice commissions has seen a dramatic drop.
The deal, which seeks to provide amnesty for war-era crimes, has undermined the credibility of the transitional justice bodies and their ongoing processes—contributing to reluctance and fear among the victims and their families to register their cases, activists and officials say.
The pact comes at a time when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) had started collecting complaints from conflict victims through the Local Peace Committees.
As Sunday marks a month since the registration of cases began, the TRC has registered 6,287 cases and the CIEDP 1,092. The TRC, which had been receiving more than 200 cases on a daily basis, registered 350 cases on Friday, which came down to 177 on Sunday. The commission had received 125 cases on the first day, which had steadily increased up to 539.
“The agreement has created confusion among the conflict victims that all the perpetrators would be pardoned,” said Surya Kiran Gurung, the TRC chairperson. “It has created an additional burden on us to educate people on the transitional justice process.”
With the registration of 1,092 out of 1,522 documented cases of disappearance at the Peace Ministry, the CIEDP is upbeat about registering all the cases in the remaining one month. “The reason we received around 70 percent of the reported cases in a month signals the trust the victims have on us,” said Lokendra Mallick, the CIEDP chair. “We listened to their stories and concerns before we called for registration of cases.”
Observers, however, pointed out at the commissions’ failure to reach down to the ground. “Victims are not informed about the transitional justice process,” said Santosh Sigdel, the rights lawyer monitoring the registration at various districts. “They seem to register their complaints in the hope of reparations.”
“The ill-timed pact has reinforced fears the transitional justice process was meant to whitewash war crimes,” said Suman Adhikari, chairperson of Conflict Victims’ Common Platform. “The agreement proposes amnesty and clemency for conflict-era cases while the commissions have no concrete plans to complete their works.”
The agreement has drawn criticism from advocacy groups, civil society, and victims’ groups who been seeking its annulment, arguing that it promotes impunity.
Villagers fear renewed conflict
Thakur Singh Tharu (Banke)
Despite assurance from the government to keep all complaints against insurgency-era crimes confidential, local residents fear that fresh conflict may arise as cases have been registered against fellow villagers.
“Although the commissions formed to probe conflict-era crimes say our complaints will be kept secret, many of the perpetrators have stepped up their vigilance against us fearing that their names may come up,” said Ramratan Chaudhary, a conflict victim. “Our complaints might anger people who have remained silent. It will be okay if they are punished. But if they are let go, they may come after us.”
Chaudhary lost his leg due to the torture meted out by the insurgents on February 14, 2001 while they also looted his property and made him homeless.
Except for the incidents involving the state security forces, local Maoist cadres are named in most of the cases related to the decade-long “People’s War”. After the peace process began, the perpetrators and victims started living in the same village. But victims fear that this relative peace might be disturbed if they register complaints against fellow villagers. “As both the sides have started filing cases, people have become skeptical of each other,” said Dilli Wali of Baijapur, who was victimized by the stateside. “If the perpetrators start getting punished, they may not leave us alone and a new conflict may arise.”
The victims, “being watched by the perpetrators”, are staying away from the Local Peace Committee that registers complaints about the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“I had requested the captors of my husband to send him to jail but he was killed. I don’t know what will happen to me if I register my complaint,” said Jaysara Chanda of Fattepur, whose husband was killed by the state. Bhim Bahadur Chanda was captured by the Army on January 5, 2004, but the state later announced that he died in crossfire on January 24.
Rajrani Godiya, who lost his son and daughter, however, said he has nothing to fear anymore. “My children are already dead so there is nothing I fear now. Their killers should be punished at any cost,” he said.
Rights activists have also stepped up their vigil in the district after villagers complained of being watched. “Even though there is no direct threat from any side, victims are in a state of fright,” said Murari Kharel of the National Human Rights Commission. “In many cases, victims have refrained from registering their complaints due to societal pressure.”