By Bhrikuti Niroula
Rule of law is a fundamental part of democracy; a true democracy. Since last 20 years, Nepali people have only seen the rule of lawlessness. Therefore, we do not know whether it is a statement coined in order to embellish the Constitution or it is something to be felt in our lives! If the pleasing words as such had always displayed their true characteristics, Democratic Republic of Korea, which is North Korea, would have been the most democratic country in Asia, but alas, we all know the truth. Whatever the reason it may be in our context, our politicians, at least in theory, are law abiding people. Our country has all the established institutions, which interpret, implement and defend the rule of law, but the question arises whether justice is being delivered or not. From the first responder to the Supreme Court; are they empathetic towards victims? Are they honestly doing their job? Are they competent enough? Are they impartial? Do we have confidence in them? Do we trust them? Unfortunately, the answer is big ‘NO’. Nevertheless, there are handfuls of honest individuals, who truly do their job, but their presence is very insignificant.
Amid chaos, resentment and utter confusion, last year Nepal promulgated a Constitution, which is said to be the guarantor of rule of law and all fundamental rights that every Nepalese can cherish. The Constitution writing and ratifying process in the Constitution Assembly resembled a 1st grade class room, where students are asked to raise their hands for the lollypop they wish to try. The majority of the assembly members, most of them are academically bankrupt, had no clue what they actually raised their hands for. They were simply whipped to obey their leaders and not to question or ponder over the subject matter. If it were that easy and fast, then why it took 8 years and spent millions of dollars to draft the Constitution?! Anyways, soon after the Constitution is promulgated, around 60 people have lost their lives due to racially tinged provocative speeches by the disgruntled leaders and also because of security forces’ lack of preparedness and tolerance in handling the crisis. It was the first test of Constitution’s effectiveness, which is hopeless. Nobody is held responsible for the loss of life and property. No wonder, impunity has been the characteristic of Nepal’s judicial system since last 20 years.
The so-called people’s war in Nepal, waged by Maoists against the State can’t be equated with the ‘Freedom movement’ adopted by Mahatma Gandhi or ‘anti-Apartheid movement’ initiated by Nelson Mandela. About 16000 people lost their lives and billions of dollars’ worth of property has been vandalized. A serious war crime and crime against humanity have been committed during the insurgency. Willful killing, torture, pillage, destruction of public property, arson, hostage taking on punitive basis, use of child soldier, lynching, summary execution, and disappearance are some of the sickening examples. Also, ISIS style of despicable crimes like bury alive, burn alive, slitting throat to decapitation, crushing bones and dismembering the alive captives have also been committed. No any civilized nation can or should condone such unspeakable crimes. The perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice. Doesn’t matter whether they are big name or protected by special privileges or legal immunities, they must stand a trial.
Just like in other war-torn countries, ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’ has been created in Nepal in order to find out what actually happened and who are responsible for what crime during the Maoist’s insurgency. Now, Nepal has a daunting challenge to take TRC to its logical end. It is yet to be seen whether TRC is a real deal or just a showpiece of deception. What is the relevance of its creation; just for the sake of formalities?! If someone is of the opinion that every atrocities committed in the name of people’s war should be forgotten and pardoned, then what is the meaning of wasting time, money and resources?! It is nothing but another financial burden to the tax paying impoverished Nepali people. If impunity and amnesty are the central point of the issue, what is the use of its establishment?
The UN, US, UK and European Union, who are well known for being the champion of human rights and democracy, should exert pressure and even provide with expertise and logical support to TRC if deemed necessary. If a Nepali army officer can be apprehended in the UK on a charge of alleged torture during Maoist’s waged war, why not apprehend those, who are actually responsible for committing and inciting war crime? If the international power centers think that Nepal’s judicial system can’t hold the perpetrators accountable, it is a great step forward to try these perpetrators under any jurisdiction anywhere possible in the world. We Nepali people welcome it.
Nepal already has several levels of judicial and security institutions, which definitely can assist TRC to do its job effectively. As a matter of fact, any justice loving individual can be a help. During Maoists’ insurgency, so many so-called human rights enterprises thrived and flourished in Nepal. As their source of foreign donation was cut off, these rapacious and self-fulfilling opportunists have also disappeared. They were watchdogs with no teeth and no vocal cord. They don’t care or dare to speak out the truth. That doesn’t matter. There are thousands of witnesses ready to speak out.
We have a message to TRC authority. If you cannot deliver justice, not only you are doing injustice to the victims, you are doing injustice to the justice itself. Your verdict will remain a precedent for similar circumstances in future. I have a foreboding that present Nepalese Constitution, promulgated in a state of euphoria, is itself a lethal ‘Weapon of Mass Dissatisfaction’. Unfortunately, our short-sighted leaders haven’t foreseen the looming disaster that may threaten the integrity of our country.
As Nepali leaders tout to be the guarantor of rule of law, human rights, peace and justice; we look forward to seeing them helping the Commission in order to reach it mandated goals. Everybody, all the stakeholders, especially the leaders of all political parties, must help Nepal’s TRC to complete its mission and achieve its goal without any hindrance. It will heighten Nepal’s image in the International community. It TRC fails to do its given job, Nepal’s image as a democratic country will be tarnished, the culture of impunity will be established forever. The consequence; Nepal and Nepali people will suffer more.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The effectiveness of Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
By Bhrikuti Niroula