By Ram Kumar Bhandari
Nepal had an armed conflict (1996-2006) between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and continues to be a country struggling with fundamental social and political change. The armed conflict in Nepal resulted in more than 1400 cases of enforced disappearances. Families of the disappeared demand that every case is resolved in accordance with their needs and desires.
The root causes of conflict in Nepal are complex and deeply entrenched in the fabric and history of society. Substantive change is many years away. In the short term, there is a critical need for acknowledgement of marginalized and disadvantaged populations in Nepal. There are common needs of majority victims that everyone wants to know the truth and recognition, seeks psychosocial support, medical treatment, education and rehabilitation, income generation and employment opportunities for sustainable livelihood which are primary concerns for wider families. Victims feel that Nepal’s transition is guided by legal and political, rather than humanitarian, social or moral concerns, but they continue to hope for social justice.
Nepal’s transitional justice process continues to be undermined by political elites’ defense of the country’s deeply entrenched system of impunity. Nepal’s conflict victims who live primarily in rural communities with limited economic resources and little or no educational background, continue to be a particularly marginalized group. Victim families’ needs and priorities are mostly excluded from the agenda of the political elites in the capital and district headquarters, in Nepal majority population live in rural villages as the major decisions are taken in the political centres, i.e. district headquarters and in the capital city that can not address those rural grievances. Human rights lawyers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) “advocating for victims” focus on prosecution of war criminals. Meanwhile, issues of social justice are ignored while political elites focus on amnesty for human rights violations that occurred during the armed conflict
The power elites in Nepal have refrained from consulting victims and victims’ organizations during processes of transitional justice, and undermined victims’ desires for their social inclusion, livelihood, security and memorialization.
In this joint article, we explore victim-centric, victim-led, family-based solutions to enable a sustainable future for conflict victims that still wait for truth, memory, justice and livelihood support.