Nepal suffered a decade-long armed conflict which formally ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. During the conflict, thousands of people lost their lives, hundreds were forcibly disappeared, and many more were disabled, injured, tortured or displaced. Women suffered sexual and gender-based violence such as rape and sexual exploitation.
The UN General Assembly Resolution 60/147 defines victims as ‘persons who individually or collectively suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that constitute gross violations of international human rights law, or serious violations of international humanitarian law.’
The people affected by the conflict as identified in the government’s Interim Relief and Rehabilitation Programme include dependents of individuals who disappeared or were killed, individuals and families who were internally displaced, and individuals who were disabled, abducted or whose property was destroyed or damaged. Absent from this definition are the victims of torture and sexual violence during or due to the conflict.
According to data received from the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction in 2010, some 16,009 people were killed, 1,207 forcibly disappeared, and 52,163 displaced during the conflict. Affected people are a mixed group, but women and children were identified as primary victims.
Table 6.1: Summary of conflict related statistics
||Number of Districts
Verified figures about the ways and patterns in which acts were committed remain unclear. ‘Verification of the facts’ and ‘public disclosure of the truth’ are yet to occur, with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances under discussion.
Voctim consultations have shed light on the issues facing conflict-affected people on a daily basis. The core concerns among families of the disappeared have centred on truth about the fate of their loved ones as well as acknowledgement from the state that their disappearances were wrongful acts. Torture victims also frequently have questions about why they were tortured, who ordered it, and who knew and failed to act against it.Conflict-affected people express frustration at the impossibility of obtaining justice, particularly for gross violations and abuses. The lack of progress on filed cases has prompted many victims to accuse authorities of outright obstructionism or at least of lacking interest in their cases. Access to justice is difficult especially for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. In some cases, victims’ families have been offered money in exchange for not filing a case.
Thousands of children were made vulnerable as a result of the conflict including by being maimed, orphaned, displaced, recruited, used by armed groups and sexually abused and exploited.
The underlying causes of the lack of justice for victims and ongoing impunity for abuses are a combination of failures of existing justice mechanisms and delays in the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms as well as uncertainty over whether, when established, they will accord with international norms and standards. The national legal framework for prosecution of serious human rights violations and abuses is wholly inadequate, with a number of grave acts including torture and disappearances not criminalized. This lack of political will to account for gross abuses and violations is also evident in the government’s reluctance to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984, as recommended during the Universal Periodic Review; despite that, the convention was ratified.
An entrenched culture of impunity prevails in Nepal for both conflict- and non-conflict-related crimes. Despite their commitments, political parties have remained reluctant to address the most painful aspects of the past. Under the human rights law, states have a particular obligation to adopt specific measures to protect the rights of victims and witnesses when they consent to participate in judicial, quasi-judicial or other remedial proceedings. However, there are currently no formal state mechanisms for protection of witnesses and victims in Nepal.
The government has adopted various national action plans, targeting women and children affected by the conflict. A National Human Rights Action Plan defines the government’s human rights priorities for the next three years, including specific actions in the fields of education, health and employment.
UN programmes and initiatives, including the UN Peace-Building Fund and UN Peace Fund for Nepal, have been supporting a wide range of grassroots projects addressing the needs of conflict-affected people as well as the root causes of the conflict. Other UN initiatives target specific areas such as reparations, transitional justice, and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups.