04/18/2016, 18.18
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War crimes commission gets underway, but few hope for justice

by Christopher Sharma

Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work yesterday by registering allegations of rape, torture and kidnapping. Its investigations will focus on crimes committed between 1995 and 2006 by Royalist forces and Maoist rebels. However, registration is restricted to only 60 days without adequate staff.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal has begun the process of registering war crime cases dating back to the decade-long civil war between the country’s Maoist rebels and Royalist government.

The 60-day registration process (until 16 June) began yesterday with the first 125 applications before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

However, experts believe that this is not enough time for the TRC to receive an expected 40,000 thousand complaints.

“We have limited mandate,” TRC Chairperson Surya Kiran Gurung told AsiaNews. “Within this [framework], we can hear complains, register them, investigate them and recommend punishment for perpetrators.”

“If the government and political parties refuse to enforce recommendations, they should not forget about possible action by the international community and the Hague Tribunal.” Hence, “I believe parties and all stakeholders will be ready to follow our recommendations.”

The TRC was created in February 2015 to investigate crimes committed during 11 years of civil war (1995-2006) between the Nepali army and Maoist guerrillas. The rebels sought to overthrow the Hindu absolute monarchy and set up a People's Republic of Nepal.

The conflict ended with a Comprehensive Peace Accord on 21 November 2006 with the United Nations playing a monitoring role.

During the conflict, the Nepali military controlled the cities, whilst the rebels were dominant in the countryside.

Overall, some 17,000 people died and 100,000 were displaced during the conflict. Both sides committed atrocities, eliminating dissidents and anyone who dared speak out. Some 1,400 civilians are still missing.

The TRC is an independent body tasked with investigating specific cases, such as sexual abuse, murder, torture and kidnappings. However, survivors and victims’ families have accused it of bias since its members are political appointees.

"Yes, we were nominated by political parties, but since we assumed this office, we belong to this institution, not any party,” said Chairperson Gurung.

However, not everyone is convinced. “We have little hope [for justice] because the parties and government are reluctant to punish,” victims’ rights advocate Subas Adhikari said. “Rather than trying to console the victims, they are trying to suppress the cases.”

“More than 50 per cent of the complaints will not be registered because the Commission will accept only written statements,” he explained. “However, many victims don’t know how to write, and they [the TRC] will not help them file their requests.”

The TRC chairperson admits that many victims can only tell their stories and ask TRC employees to write down their complaints. "But we cannot do that because we do not have enough staff,” he told AsiaNews.

Mr Gurung also said that he asked the government to update existing laws. Under Nepal’s current Civil Code (Muluki Ain), rape victims have 35 days to file a complaint. This means that "if the law is not changed, no rape victims will have justice."

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