August 20, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
As the victims of the decade-long insurgency (1996-2006) are voicing their grievances against the government for failing to provide them justice, we have discovered a disturbing development in one of such cases of the conflict era. Nepal Army, one party to conflict from the state side, is found to have made an attempt to settle the case of Maina Sunar by offering inducements to her mother, whose daughter was abducted and killed by Nepal Army soldiers in February, 2004. It has been learnt that Nepal Army has taken this move to settle this most infamous case outside of the court. The case of Maina Sunar has already received national and international attention. Young Maina was found tortured to death in the army barracks in Panchkhal. While Devi Sunar, Maina’s mother, has been fighting for justice for over a decade, army officials are said to have proposed to set up an endowment fund in Maina’s name at Kavre’s Bhagwati High School, where Maina studied, and install her statue (possibly also demanding that she withdrew the case). Devi Sunar has declined the offers.
According to Devi Sunar, army officials met her twice (on June 19 and July 15) and offered to construct a new building in Maina’s name at her school or set up an endowment fund in her name for social work. She has mentioned army officials saying that they made such an offer at the army chief’s behest. If true, this is not expected of chief of the army. Devi Sunar had filed the case at Kavre District Court, which convicted Colonel Bobby Khatri and captains Sunil Prasad Adhikari and Amit Pun in the murder case and slapped life terms on them. Army responded in 2017 by filing a writ petition at the Supreme Court against the verdict, demanding that the life terms on three former army officers issued by the Kavre District Court be annulled. The writ petition is sub-judice in the Supreme Court.
If Nepal Army is indeed trying to settle this case by offering inducements, we are afraid, it is not only going to set a dangerous precedent in Nepal’s protracted transitional justice but also could potentially contribute to internationalizing the case that should be properly settled domestically. It is going to further agitate the families of the victims who suffered at the hands of the state side during the insurgency. As we have maintained in this space, the cases of murder, disappearance and human rights violations should be resolved through the transitional justice mechanisms. But our TJ mechanisms are literally defunct because of the failure of the government to appoint new commissioners and reconstitute the TJ mechanisms. The case of Maina Sunar is at the court and the court should be allowed to settle it. Any attempt to settle such cases outside of the judicial system is going to further anger the victims who are losing patience because of the state apathy toward providing them justice. All the stakeholders of transitional justice process need to realize that attempt to defer justice to the victims is going to meet with backlash nationally and internationally.