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Nepal: Two Commissions on War Crimes Established

(Feb. 25, 2015) On February 10, 2015, the government of Nepal established two commissions to investigate allegations of war crimes and disappearances associated with the country’s ten-year civil war, which lasted from 1996 to 2006. (Alexandra Farone, Nepal Forms Commissions to Probe War Crimes, PAPER CHASE (Feb. 10 2015); Nepal: Conflict Profile, INSIGHT ON CONFLICT (last updated July 2013).)

According to Law Minister Narahari Acharya, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modeled after South Africa’s post-apartheid one, will look into the alleged war crimes, while the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearances of over 1,300 people still missing since the end of the conflict. The commissions will begin operations within six months and have two years to fulfill their mandates. (Gopal Sharma, Nepal Sets Up Panels to Probe War Crimes Amid Cries for Justice, REUTERS (Feb. 10, 2015).)

Both sides in the conflict, state forces as well as Maoist insurgents, have been accused of such abuses as “unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture” during the period of war. (Id.) Although they had agreed to investigate these crimes within six months of signing the peace agreement ending the conflict, reportedly “subsequent governments failed to investigate the accusations, fearing doing so would derail a tenuous peace between politicians and former rebels, leaving alleged perpetrators to rise through the military and political ranks.” (Id.)

The recent action comes just two weeks after Human Rights Watch issued a press release criticizing Nepal for delaying the fulfillment of its promise to deliver post-conflict justice and accountability by setting up the commissions. (Id.; Farone, supra; Press Release, Human Rights Watch, Nepal: Justice for Conflict-Era Crimes Remains Out of Reach (Jan. 29, 2015).) Victims’ rights advocates remain unconvinced that justice will be rendered, however. Hari Phuyal, a Nepali human rights lawyer, noted that there is “a flawed provision in the legislation under which the commissions were set up,” and that ambiguous wording might result in perpetrators’ avoiding punishment by being granted amnesty. (Sharma, supra.) Suman Adhikari, a victims’ rights campaigner, expressed concern about the panels having been established without consulting victims; another activist, Dev Bahadur Maharjan, said that the conflict’s victims had petitioned the Supreme Court against the legislation. (Id.)