Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Can it Heal Old Wounds?

18 Sep, 2013    ·   4125

Buddhi Man Tamang comments on the need to set up an impartial and independent TRC to address war crimes and human rights violations

Buddhi Man Tamang
Buddhi Man Tamang
Research Intern

There is a provision in the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed in 2006 between the CPN (Maoist) and the government that war crimes and human rights violations will be resolved through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The president has passed the ordinance to form the TRC but it has not yet been implemented.  Will the TRC only reopen the wounds that the armed conflict inflicted or will it provide justice to the victims?

After the CPN (Maoist) started the armed conflict, there was a decade-long confrontation between the government and the Maoists. As a result, people were abducted, detained and tortured. There were serious human rights violations on both sides: the government as well as the Maoists. One of the key components of the peace process that the CPN (Maoist) joined was to form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, identify war crimes and provide justice to the victims through positive transformation; this relied upon both parties involved. The political parties agreed to form the TRC but were not able to form it during the tenure of the last Constituent Assembly. There were enough discussions in the legislative parliament but the government was not been able translate them in order to implement the TRC.

Recently, Ganga Maya Adhikary and her husband, Nanda Prasad from Gorkha district were on a fast unto death for the demand to arrest the Maoist cadres responsible for their son’s murder during the insurgency. The Chief Justice-led government was unable to take concrete action because of the absence of the TRC. However, the couple broke their fast after the government ordered the arrest of the Maoist cadres involved in the killing of their son. The government ordered these arrests after rights-based organisations and groups called for the opening of investigation into the matter. This was done despite pressure from the UCPN (Maoist) and its leadership. Maoists take this as a conspiracy to jeopardise the peace process. The major concern is the absence of the TRC, which both the government and the Maoists had agreed upon as an agency to address war crimes and human rights violations.

What might be the reasons for the delay in the formation of the TRC? It is likely that political instability in Nepal and the ongoing change of government will have an effect on the formation of the TRC. Currently, the focus has been on the formation and dissolution of the government. The TRC has to be under broad political understanding and based on consensus among the political parties. It would also be wiser for the Maoists to be involved in the process of forming the TRC so that justice is provided from both sides. Currently, the government is mostly constituted by former bureaucrats and the Chief Justice. They are more apolitical in nature. Their mandate is to conduct the CA election. The most pressing need therefore is for political consensus among the parties. Therefore, on 14 March 2013 President Ram Baran Yadav issued an ordinance for the formation of the TRC. It was criticised because the ordinance was issued without consultation with the rights-based organisations that have been demanding the TRC.

Nepal has suffered at the hands of the rebels and the state; leading to some serious human rights violations. The point therefore is, can the TRC heal the wounds inflicted by the decade-long conflict? It is a possibility, if the TRC is a truly independent body that has the freedom to conduct investigations without interference from the government and the political parties. Although the likelihood of political intervention in these investigations is very high, serious efforts should be made to prevent the use of the TRC as a platform for the articulation of political motives and interests, which can upset the upcoming constitution-writing process through the second round of the CA election scheduled for November.