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A Decade After Nepal’s Maoist Rebellion, Little Justice for Victims

But with the first phase of the investigations still delayed, and their two-year mandate set to expire next month, many are convinced the commission is nothing more than an elaborate mechanism for sweeping the history under the rug. Reinforcing these suspicions are provisions, in the act creating the commission, that grant amnesty to offenders, withdraw cases from Nepal’s Supreme Court and violate international laws governing the prosecution of war crimes.

Though members of the commission expect the government to extend their tenure by at least a year, rights advocates say they expect that legal actions against war criminals will continue to stall and that few prosecutions will materialize. In the years since the war ended, only one verdict has been reached.

“It has become clear that no political party, including the Maoists, were ever committed to the idea of delivering on justice and accountability for victims,” said Tejshree Thapa, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, which released a statement this month on the peace process. “There is absolutely no political will.”

The beginning of the Maoist movement in Nepal can be traced to 1949, with the formation of the country’s first Communist party. In the 1960s, while Nepal was ruled by an absolute monarchy, young men and women looked increasingly to ideas circulated during the Cultural Revolution in China and the Naxalite movement in India. Communism emerged as the way to uproot the monarchy and achieve total state control through an armed uprising.

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Nepal’s current prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in 2006, the year the Maoist rebellion ended. Credit Scott Eells/Redux

The movement remained relatively obscure until the 1990s, when a radicalized section of the Maoists began to organize. Guided by Nepal’s current prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal — who goes by his nom de guerre, Prachanda, or “the fierce one” in Nepali — the war officially began in 1996 and ended with a peace deal in 2006.

In an interview, Surya Kiran Gurung, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, defended the work of his office.

Cataloging the challenges his staff has faced over the last two years, Mr. Gurung said there was no law in Nepal that criminalized torture, making prosecution tricky, and a short statute of limitations on reporting sexual violence. And money has always been a hurdle, he said.

“What I have been asking from the government is to give us the budget that we need,” Mr. Gurung said, noting that the commission has yet to hire investigators outside Kathmandu, the capital. “I’m here to take up my responsibility. I’m not here for a job.”

Aditya Adhikari, the author of a book on the revolution, sympathized with Mr. Gurung. He added that the commission’s work had been hampered by the different agendas of international rights organizations and victims’ groups.

“Victims’ groups argue that these human rights actors are excessively focused on the idea of prosecution,” he said. “Just go to a village and ask people what they want, victims what they want. They’ll say jobs, reparations. Very few people will talk about prosecution.”

Devi Sunuwar, whose 15-year-old daughter, Maina, was captured by the army in 2004, tortured with the live wire of a water heater and eventually killed, scoffed when asked if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been working on behalf of victims. The commission is so underfunded, she said, it can barely afford refreshments at events organized for victims.

“All they offer is black tea,” she said tartly.

She said Nepal’s political leadership, including the Maoist party, had no interest in settling past grievances. Last year, she and members of a victims’ collective visited Prime Minister Dahal to present a memorandum of demands. The meeting did not go well, she said.

Source: NYT > World

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