Nepal prime minister admits ‘delays’ in justice for Maoist war victims
Nepal on Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the peace deal that ended a bloody Maoist insurgency as the prime minister admitted that justice for its victims has been delayed.
In a TV show late on Saturday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal – who led the guerrillas in the decade-long war – blamed political turmoil for delaying justice over wartime abuses.
“It would have been better if we were able to conclude it on time ... but political difficulties of the transitional period delayed the process,” Dahal said, during a fortnightly show in which he takes questions from the public. More than 16,000 died, 1,300 disappeared and thousands more were displaced during the conflict that ended in 2006.
The agreement brought the Maoist rebels into mainstream politics, hastened the end of a 240-year-old Hindu monarchy and transformed Nepal into a secular republic.
But the impoverished Himalayan nation has since cycled through nine governments as fractious political parties have traded blame over failures to draft a new constitution and to secure justice for victims of wartime abuses by both sides.
The peace pact included plans to establish two commissions to investigate crimes committed during the conflict – but they were only set up in 2014 after years of political infighting.
“Since I became the prime minister, I have been pushing for legal amendments and a positive environment for the [war crimes] commissions to speed up their work,” said Dahal, who was elected prime minister for the second time in August.
More than 60,000 victims have filed complaints with the two commissions, which were only granted a two-year mandate that expires in three months – leaving may doubtful they will ever see justice.
“The victims feel a little hopeless. We have waited so long, but the intentions of the government and the leaders are not sincere,” said Suman Adhikari, who heads an organisation that supports victims in their fight for justice. Adhikari’s own father, a teacher, was killed by Maoist rebels.
Rights groups have also expressed alarm at a deal signed in May between the previous government and the Maoist parties to withdraw civil war cases from the courts and offer amnesty to people accused of abuses.
Human Rights Watch said Nepal’s leaders have failed to deliver on their promise of accountability.
“The war was brutal, and Nepal’s political leadership should not forget that injustices need redress,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for the US-based watchdog, in a statement Friday.
“Nepali political leaders should stop sweeping war crimes and justice issues under the rug, and instead live up to the incredibly brave promises made under the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Accord].”
Since the conflict ended, Nepal’s courts have issued several arrest warrants for alleged perpetrators. But only one case has resulted in convictions: that of five former rebels jailed in 2014 for murdering a journalist.