UNHRC Rules on Cases of Enforced Disappearance in Nepal

Candle lit in memory of the disappeared in Nepal. Photo: Erik B Wilson

Candle lit in memory of the disappeared in Nepal. Photo: Erik B Wilson

Last month the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a ruling on the cases of Tej Bahadur Bhandari, Gyanendra Tripathi and Jit Man Basnet, three individuals subjected to enforced disappearance by state forces during the 1996-2006 Civil War in Nepal. In those decisions the UNHRC holds the Government of Nepal responsible for the disappearances and urges proper investigation, prosecution and reparation. The cases were brought before the UN body by Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) a legal non-profit organization based in Geneva Switzerland. In a press release issued this past week, TRIAL director Philip Grant stated that, “If Nepal wants to be perceived as a country governed by the rule of law, it must swiftly implement these decisions. Prosecuting the perpetrators and offering truth and redress to the victims or their families is already long overdue”

The ruling by the UNHRC, while not binding is an important step forward in the search for justice of more than 1,300 families that lost loved ones to enforced disappearance during the conflict. While the conflict ended in 2006 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) included promises to establish a commission that would investigate disappearances, little progress has been made in the ensuing 8 years. No cases have been brought to court, despite many filings, no individuals have been prosecuted or held accountable for their acts, and though families have received small amounts of interim relief, the daily livelihood problems and anguish that result from the loss of family members persists.

While it’s unclear how the government will respond, greater international attention to the issue is sure to increase the pressure on government officials to properly address the issue of enforced disappearance in Nepal. The decision comes at a particularly opportune time as there is again movement to establish both the truth and reconciliation commission and commission for the investigation of enforced disappearance that were detailed in the CPA. The legislation pertaining to the disappearance commission has long included language that would allow for the provision of amnesty to perpetrators despite 2 Supreme Court rulings (June 1, 2007 and January 2, 2014) stating that such a provision is illegal. The added pressure from the UNHRC will hopefully help to move this process forward. A response is expected from the Government of Nepal on the UN ruling within 180 days.