Today, the 13th of February, 2023, the government has announced a public holiday to observe “Jana Yuddha Diwas” (People’s War Day/ Memorial Day). While the irony that not over a month ago the same government announced a public holiday to observe “Prithivi Jayanti” (National Unity Day) is unmissable, we are not here to talk about that.
27 years ago, on this day, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) initiated a nationwide insurgency with the objective of overthrowing the Nepalese monarchy and ushering in a people’s republic.
The Civil War, which stretched over a decade was witness to over 17,000 deaths, and countless (often unrecorded) instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity which include rapes, kidnappings, murders, and mass killings by both parties – the armed insurgents and the State.
After a Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed on 21 November, 2006, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction proposed legislation that would establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a transitional justice mechanism.
The enactment of the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2071 (2014) allowed the formation of two bodies, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappearances which were established in 2015.
Over 63,000 people have registered their complaints at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and another 3,000 at the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappearances – these 66,000 are awaiting truth and justice, and the government to declare a holiday on this day before resolving their cases is a big slap on their faces.
More so, the fate of the two transitional justice bodies has been left hanging, with little to no progress to show in the past eight years. As of February 2023, both transitional bodies lack leadership. Any appointment to the post first requires the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act to be amended, which is not being done as political parties differ in their views.
Last year CPN UML objected as several provisions provided discretionary powers to the commission to grant amnesty to those accused of serious human rights violations. For CPN UML, it made sense to object at the time because they were in the opposition – however, come 2023, they have allied with CPN (Maoist) to form a government, therefore the passage of the bill with the necessary requirements might not be a priority.
According to report published in the Institute of Public Studies, authored by Subin Nepal, “Clause 13 hands off all the cases from the decade-long war to the TRC – making it impossible for victims to pursue a civil suit against perpetrators in any court of law” which is a further cause of concern as the TRC’s fate itself hangs in the hands of the government.
While it is ridiculous the government is handing out public holidays as if distributing peanuts (as we would say), it is very hurtful to the thousands who await truth or justice from the state. The government should at least consider the sentiments of thousands who await justice before declaring such an insensitive holiday. While the need for a civil war is subject to debate – the crimes committed against humanity are not, and should be brought to trial at the earliest.