The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons has started collecting feedbacks from victims of decade-long armed conflict in the country, nine years after it was supposed to begin its works.
The peace agreement between the then rebel party CPN Maoist and the government on November 21, 2006 had stated that the commission will be formed within six months.
But the commission has not been able to carry out its tasks even 14 months after its institution, with victims questioning its ability to provide them justice. Chairman Lokendra Mallik said the commission had to fight for 10 months just to get an office and it has not been provided adequate staff.
“People think this commission is just like any other,” Mallik said. “They feel that the report of our work will never be made public and its suggestions will never be implemented.” But he claims the commission will finish its work within two years if allowed to work without hindrance. “If this commission fails, there will be no peace in the country and the international community will lose its confidence in the transitional justice mechanism,” he said.
The government has to formulate three laws to help the commission, Mallik explained. First, there is no clear legal provision to punish rights violators based on CIEDP’s recommendation. Second, there is no legal status of a disappeared person. And finally, there is no law for compensating victims who were forcibly disappeared.
“By the time we complete our work, it will be too late to rehabilitate the victims, so laws have to be drafted as soon as possible,” Mallik said.
Family members of victims have appealed to the CIEDP to release its report even if the government does not cooperate. “If investigation reports are made public, not only the victims and the witnesses, but also the members of the commission will receive threats,” said Homprakash Sapkota, father of a disappeared person, Sunita Sapkota. “We do not trust the government so do you dare to release your report?” he asked commission members.
Despite being formed by the government, the commission is independent and impartial, Chairman Mallik insists, saying that except for the facts that are requested to be kept secret by the victims, all other information will be made public.
Nevertheless, the victims have not given up on the commission. “The commission was formed after a long struggle. NGOs and INGOs only gave us false promises. We were thrashed by police when demanding for justice. I have hope on the commission but I am still not sure,” said Chandrakala Adhikari of Kohalpur in Banke district, whose son Devi Prasad has been disappeared.
The condition of disappeared people will be made public and they will get justice if the government supports them, said Chairman of UCPN (Maoist)-affiliated Disappeared Citizens Society Ashok Rokaya. “The condition of the disappeared is still unknown due to non-cooperation of the government for all these years. But the state knows the whereabouts of these people,” he said.
Relatives of people who were made disappeared have raised concerns both about theirs and the witnesses’ security as CIEDP has urged people to register their complaints.
“The witnesses fear for their lives,” Chandrakala, wife of disapperead Bhupendra Raj Upreti, said. “The commission should guarantee our security.” Bhupendraraj was detained by security forces from Pushpalal Chowk on December 9, 2003.
Local Sunil Chhettri, who was detained along with Bhupendra Raj, but was released after 17 days in detention, said, “I escaped from the mouth of death, do not ask me how,” he said.
Likewise, Chandrakala Subedi Pokhrel’s husband Ram Prasad was arrested by security forces on January 26, 2002. She claims that he was forced to take out money from his bank account on March 26 the same year. “There are people who have witnessed all these, but they remain silent due to fear for their lives,” she said.
Chairman Mallik said that testimony of witnesses and their identity will be kept secret.