The people of Nepal have been advocating for accountability for human rights abuses committed during the 1996–2006 conflict, but progress remains slow. ICTJ works with local groups and national political actors in Nepal to help promote truth, justice, and reparations.

Nepali youth light candles in memory of victims of the Maoist and government conflict (REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar)

Background: The End of a Kingdom, the Beginning of Democracy

Following a long history of political exclusion, Nepal’s government gradually opened after the first pro-democracy People’s Movement of 1990 (Jana Andolan). But when Maoists walked out of Parliament in 1996, armed conflict erupted, resulting in the death of more than 13,000 people from 1996–2006. Approximately 1,300 people were forcibly disappeared.

The People’s Movement of April 2006 (Jana Andolan II) led to the reinstatement of parliament, and soon after the coalition government and the Maoists signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Two years later, Nepal abolished the monarchy and become a federal democratic republic.

While the CPA was a significant step toward reconciliation, promises for different forms of accountability remain unfulfilled. Disappeared persons are still unaccounted for, and reform of Nepal’s security sector has not been carried out.

An executive ordinance for the establishment of an Investigation of Disappeared People, Truth and Reconciliation Commission was adopted in March 2013, but does not comply with international standards, particularly in relation to amnesties. The measure, which has been opposed by victims and other key stakeholders, is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court of Nepal.

An interim relief program administered by the government’s Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction was established in 2008 and remains the only initiative to date aimed at addressing victims’ needs. However, it does not fulfill victims' rights to reparations, because it does not recognize recipients as victims of human rights abuses or acknowledge the state's responsibility for those violations.

The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in May 2012, after failing to agree on a new constitution, has resulted in political instability and uncertainty. In March 2013, after months of political crisis, the main political parties agreed to the establishment of an Interim Election Council under the leadership of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The council is mandated to hold elections by mid-December 2013, at the latest.

In this context, progress towards achieving justice has largely stalled, despite the continued efforts of victims and human rights defenders.

Tear open this chest of mine 

perhaps the pictures 

in my heart,
when you see them, 

will change your mind.

- Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Muna Madan

ICTJ's Role:

ICTJ works at the national and grassroots level to advance transitional justice in Nepal.

  • Technical assistance: ICTJ provides advice and guidance on transitional justice processes in Nepal. Our briefing paper “Seeking Options for the Right to Truth in Nepal” critically analyzed legislation for the establishment of a commission on enforced disappearances, truth, and reconciliation. Our briefing “Relief, Reparations, and the Root Causes of Conflict in Nepal” assessed government relief programs for conflict-affected persons and advocates for a comprehensive reparations program. We provide discussion of effective practices from other transitional justice contexts to better equip decision makers.

  • Training and advocacy: ICTJ works to ensure local actors have the knowledge and skills to advocate for credible and representative truth and disappearances commissions. We work closely with victims to support their meaningful participation in transitional justice processes. We also facilitate workshops for government officials.

  • Gender justice: ICTJ works to integrate women into the peace process and raise awareness about their experiences both during and after the conflict. We educate people about gender and transitional justice through materials such as Across the Lines: the Impact of Nepal’s Conflict on Women (published in collaboration with Advocacy Forum), as well as through trainings, workshops, and media work.