The arrest of absconding murder convict Bal Krishna Dhungel, a senior Maoist leader, highlights the weaknesses, as well as the promises, for victims seeking accountability through Nepal’s judicial system, said the ICJ as it released a report on accountability mechanisms in the country.
The ICJ’s report Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Nepal concludes that impunity for gross human rights violations is one of the major obstacles to the creation of a stable and legitimate democratic government and lies at the heart of the rule of law crisis in Nepal.
It found that a lack of commitment by Nepal’s political leadership to address past and ongoing human rights violations continues to allow perpetrators to escape justice and undermines victims’ right to effective remedies and reparation.
“In the past, the promise to shield perpetrators for human rights violations has been used as a bargaining chip to garner political support and build political alliances,” said Frederick Rawski, Director of the ICJ’s Asia Pacific Regional Programme.
“It is imperative that accountability for human rights violations remains a priority for Nepal’s political leadership after Parliamentary elections, and that alliances between political parties are not once again used as an excuse to undermine Nepal’s human rights obligations,” added Rawski.
Attempts to thwart justice have also included the cynical manipulation of justice sector actors, from the police to the Attorney General’s office, in a way that threatens the independence and credibility of the institutions responsible for safeguarding human rights and the rule of law in Nepal, the report highlights.
This pattern of impunity persists despite demands for accountability by civil society and victims’ organizations, as well as the National Human Rights Commission and Nepal’s Supreme Court.
“In many ways, the Supreme Court of Nepal has emerged as a beacon of hope for victims of human rights violations,” said Rawski.
“The Court has given domestic effect to Nepal’s obligations under international law and has set high standards for accountability, remedy and reparations,” he added.
However, the Government’s disregard of key judgments has limited the impact of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, the report says.
Attacks on the independence of the judiciary, as demonstrated by the impeachment motion against former Chief Justice Sushila Karki, also indicate a worrying trend.
The ICJ’s report found that the mandate and operation of transitional justice mechanisms fall short of international standards despite the repeated reinforcement of such standards by the Supreme Court.
Though ostensibly formed to provide a measure of public accountability, the practice of forming ad hoc commissions of inquiry to investigate rights violations has promoted impunity by diverting investigations from the criminal justice process – where they belong – into parallel mechanisms that are established by means that make them vulnerable to political interference and manipulation.
The ICJ’s report also concludes that gross human rights violations in Nepal are not a thing of the past, but are ongoing.
Notably in the Terai region, the State has responded to the Madhesh movement with excessive use of force, extrajudicial killings, and torture and other ill-treatment.
Political expediency has trumped calls for justice and accountability and the Government continues to use State machinery to shield perpetrators rather than serve the interests of justice.
“In a seemingly perpetual cycle, the weak rule of law in the country contributes to impunity for human rights violations, and this culture of impunity further erodes the rule of law,” said Rawski.
“The search for truth and justice in Nepal will not be realized unless this cycle is ended,” he added.
Dhungel had been absconding since the Supreme Court upheld his conviction for murder in 2010. The arrest comes after a contempt of court petition was filed before the Supreme Court against the Inspector General of Police for failing to implement multiple Supreme Court orders directing Dhungel’s arrest.
Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director, t: +66 64 478 1121, e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Conte, ICJ Global Redress and Accountability Initiative, t: +41.79.957.2733; e: email@example.com
Nepal-GRA Baseline Study-Publications-Reports-Thematic reports-2017-ENG (full report in PDF)
ICJ Discussion Paper Nepal’s Transitional Justice Process: Challenges and Future Strategy (August 2017)
ICJ Report Authority without Accountability: The struggle for justice in Nepal (October 2013)
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