Thursday, February 22, 2018

AI Nepal Activities

16th Anniversary of the Killing of Muktinath Adhikari observed with an Interaction on Nepal's Current Transitional Justice Situation

Muktinath Adhikari Memorial Foundation and Amnesty International Nepal jointly organized an event on 17 January to mark the 16th anniversary of the killing of Muktinath Adhikari.

Adhikari, then headmaster of Panini Sanskrit High School, Duradada, Lamjung was brutally killed on 17 January 2002 by the Maoist cadres. He was dragged out of the classroom, taken half an hour's distance away from the school blindfolded, then tied up in a tree with his muffler, stabbed on his stomach and shot on head and chest.

Adhikari was then the coordinator of Group 79, Lamjung of Amnesty International Nepal, and a vocal human rights activist advocating for the rights of people including against the arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture and extrajudicial killings of the Maoist cadres by the state security forces. His only crime, if it were a crime, was that he refused to pay donations and remove Sanskrit from the school curriculum as asked by the Maoist cadres.

Twelve years after the signing of the Comprehensive  Peace Agreement (CPA) in November 2006, victims of human rights violations committed during Nepal's 1996-2006 civil war, continue to wait for an answer to the question - when will justice be done? And as ever, the answer seems to be largely elusive.

Two Commissions - Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission for the Investigation of the Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) - were established in February 2015, nine years after commitments expressed by the political parties in the CPA. In the last three years since their coming into being, these Commissions have only been able to collect over 60 thousand complaints while not being able to fact-find even a single case of human rights violations.

In the interaction entitled "Effectiveness of Nepal's Transitional Justice Mechanisms and Measures of Solution to the Current Stalemate" following the memorial event, speakers lamented the delay and denial of justice.

Geeta Rasaili and Anita Janwali, representatives from Conflict Victims Common Platform stated that the transitional justice bodies have largely failed to deliver anything in the last three years, and that the officials of these bodies should quit if they knew they could not deliver. Suman Adhikari, son of Muktinath Adhikari, said that the mere extension of the TJ bodies without amending the laws would not yield a result as already witnessed, and therefore demanded amendment in the law including the reformation of the Commissions.

Nepali Congress leader Shekhar Koirala stressed there should be political will first and the leadership should try to resolve the crisis bringing all sides to confidence.

Former Law minister and leader of CPN-UML, Agni Kharel shed light on the steps taken to holistically resolve the issue during his tenure including by amending the TJ law which unfortunately collapsed after the collapse of the government in August 2016, which remained stalled since then.

Human Rights activists Charan Prasai, Subodh Pyakurel, Purushottam Dahal, Rajan Kuikel, Nutan Thapaliya and Kapil Shrestha also lamented lack of will and  honesty displayed by the leadership including of the public institutions such as the commissions to deliver on their duties.

Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Surya Kiran Gurung said that given Nepal's membership with the UN Human Rights Council, Nepal cannot afford now to sit in comfort without first addressing the justice and accountability issues at home in order to qualify to be in a position to examine and question the human rights records of other countries which entails empowering the TJ commissions including by according required logistics and amending the law.

Member of the Disappearance Commission, Bijul Biswakarma acknowledged the slow pace of the TJ bodies but also highlighted the problems faced by the commissions including lack of cooperation, logistics and resources to pursue investigations. He expressed the Commission's readiness to sit and discuss with the victims on their decision regarding the transfer of over 400 cases to the TRC.

Govinda Sharma Paudel, member of the National Human Rights Commission, acknowledged there were some issues of concern at the very beginning when the process for the formation of the TJ Commissions were underway in 2014 with the then Recommendation Committee being headed by the former Supreme Court Justice Om Bhakta Shrestha. He also acknowledged the inadequacies of resources and difficulties as faced by the commissions, but then also pointed that there is not other way out than to move ahead with positive action and mindset to serve justice to the victims.

Former Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha dwelt at length on how justice is being derailed and how an attempt to divert the path of justice is being made in Nepal. He cautioned all and sundry in the public leadership position to be mindful of their respective duties, be productive for the larger public good and deliver. He questioned the intent of the political leadership in trying to delay and deny justice and urged all the victims to continue to pursue justice without resorting to any extremes.



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