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 have remained unfulfilled. To date, disappeared persons are still unaccounted for, reform of Nepal’s security sector has not been carried out, and there has not been any significant progress on prosecutions.

An interim relief program administered by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction since 2008 remains the only initiative to date aimed at addressing victims’ material 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 Commission on Investigation into Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act (CoID-TR Act) was promulgated in May 2014 and established two separate commissions: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Inquiry on the Disappearances (CoID). The process leading to the adoption of Act was very problematic from the outset.

Despite the fact that 234 conflict victims in 2014 challenged the CoID-TR Act in the Supreme Court, the three major political parties (NC, UML and UCPN-M) agreed to expedite the formation of both commissions prior to the Court pronouncing its verdict on the Act.

In February 2015 the TRC and the CoID were established without consulting with the victims’ groups.

A few days later, the Supreme Court annulled the amnesty provision of the CoID TR Act, saying that it was against constitutional provisions, international law and the court’s earlier verdicts.

Progress towards achieving justice has been very slow and cumbersome, despite the continued efforts of victims and human rights defenders. The humanitarian crisis brought about by the recent earthquakes has created new needs for the country’s population and compounded those of conflict victims who were already vulnerable.

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 levels to advance transitional justice in Nepal, assisting the society to promote accountability, pursue truth and memory, provide reparations, and promote institutional reform.

  • Building technical capacity: ICTJ provides technical advice and guidance on transitional justice processes to key actors in the country. We critically analyze legislation relating to transitional justice and provide discussion of effective practices from other transitional justice contexts to better equip decision makers and victims’ groups. Our report “To Walk Freely with a Wide Heart” presents the findings of an in-depth survey of conflict victims, researching their immediate and long-term needs and aspirations for reparations and advocates for a comprehensive reparations program.

  • Monitoring: ICTJ monitors the newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Inquiry into Disappearances, and will continue to facilitate discussions and analyses of these mechanisms.

  • 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 and members of the parliament.

  • Gender justice: ICTJ works to raise awareness about women’s’ experiences during and after the conflict. We raise the need for psychosocial counseling of victims of sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, we educate people on how enforced disappearance affects women through materials such as “Beyond Relief: Addressing the Rights and Needs of Nepal’s Wives of the Disappeared”.