Stakeholders have said the culture of impunity poses a serious threat to recently initiated transitional justice process.
During an event organised to mark the 12th memorial day of Maina Sunar, a 15-year-old girl, who was murdered in detention by the then Royal Nepal Army (RNA), on Wednesday, speakers said the transitional justice process would ensure non-occurrence of violence, which could happen only if the perpetrators are brought to justice.
“The regime changed but the culture of impunity continues to remain,” said Govinda Bandi, a human rights lawyer. “Prosecution is an essential component of justice, which also deters others from commiting an offence.”
In 2004, Reena Rasaili and Subhadra Chaulagain, were raped and murdered by army patrol in Kavre.
Rasaili’s aunt Devi Sunar, who witnessed her niece’s body lying on the courtyard of her house, wanted to lodge a case against the murderers, which exposed her to threat.
Devi was not home when NRA soldiers reached her house to take her.
The soldiers abducted her teenage daughter Maina, who never returned. Maina’s body was exhumed from the Panchkhal barracks in 2007.
The court had issued an arrest warrant against four Army officials—Bobi Khatri, Sunil Prasad Adhikari, Amit Pun and Niranjan Basnet—on charge of illegal detention, torture and killing of Sunar. Niranjan, then major, was called back from Chad where he was serving in a peacekeeping mission.
However, none of the Army officials were tried in any civilian court for criminal charges.
“If she was not murdered, I would have invited you to her wedding,” said her mother Devi with tears welling in her eyes. “I risked my life to demand justice for my daughter and thousands other killed, tortured and disappeared illegally during the decade-long insurgency.”
Devi was the person who dared the Army. She filed the case against the army personnel with legal support from Advocacy Forum, an advocacy NGO, which was recording incidents of rights violation during the insurgency. Despite winning the case, Devi is yet to see the culprits in jail. “It will give me peace if I could see the convicts behind the bars,” she said.
In January, the Kavre District Court issued an order to reopen the case of Maina, which was adjourned for two years. This has rekindled her hope that she could see the perpetrators brought to book, as this time court would issue a verdict even if the defendants do not show up.
Ever since Devi took up the fight for justice, Maina’s case became an a symbol of rights violations perpetrated by both warring sides.
Although Maina’s case is a wartime case, the transitional justice commissions have no mandate to look into this case.
The Transitional Justice Act has clearly stated that cases that are sub judice would not come under the purview of such commissions.
The commissions, which were formed a year ago, have also failed to win the confidence of conflict victims.
“The government has not amended the laws as directed by the Supreme Court in line with the international norms and practices of transitional justice, while it endorsed the regulation for the commissions in six months,” said Suman Adhikari, chairperson of Conflict Victims Common Platform, an alliance of 13 victims’ organisations representing both sides.
Adhikari, whose father was murdered by the rebel Maoists, said that the victims community is dismayed by the performance of the commissions that submitted their annual reports last week.
“We do not have much hope on the commissions,” said Adhikari, adding, “What matters is political will to address the rights violations and crimes against humanity.”