It has been 10 days since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been soliciting complaints from conflict victims all across the country. It is too early to know how many complaints will be received and what the nature of the complaints will be. It is also too early to decide what impact these complaints will have.
Conflict victims and rights activists have long been suspicious of the TRC. Initially, they were strongly opposed to the TRC legislation which allowed for amnesty and seemed to force victims to reconcile with perpetrators. Then, for many months after the TRC was formed, conflict victims felt that the commissioners would not be able to adequately address their needs, as they were political appointees and thus beholden to leaders who remain intent on stymieing the transitional justice process.
Such concerns are still valid. Nonetheless, many conflict victims from across the country have decided to engage with the TRC process, even though it might be flawed. Over the past 10 days, various victims’ groups have put forward their demands. This process has thus given the conflict victims’ movement a kind of momentum, and a new hope that the whereabouts of the disappeared will be discovered, perpetrators punished, and reparations made available.
There have also been a somewhat surprising set of events, with actors not necessarily associated with conflict victims coming forward with claims. For example, a group of former Maoist combatants who were minors when recruited have issued complaints and demanded punishment of those who convinced them to become child soldiers. It is a positive sign that the transitional justice mechanism is enabling various groups with legitimate grievances to publicly air their demands and seek justice from the state.
Of course, it is far too early to ascertain what the outcome of all this will be. There are concerns about threats to victims. In Rukum, for instance, a Nepal Army battalion has requested details of victims who have submitted complaints. Many have interpreted this as a sign of intimidation. The monitoring committees formed at the district level should take care to prevent such attempts at intimidation and provide victims with a sense of security.
More broadly, the political space has increasingly shrunk over recent years. The major parties have created a situation where they hold control over important sectors of society and the economy. All dissenting voices are either ignored or throttled. There is a high possibility that the political parties will similarly prevent the TRC from addressing victims’ demands for justice.
The leaders of the political parties should be warned that they cannot prevent justice forever. If they do prevent justice delivery now, the violations committed during Nepal’s conflict will be internationalized. Sooner or later, they will have to deal with the issue. It is best, therefore, to allow the TRC complete autonomy.