Verdict on Maina Sunar
After 13 long years of the murder of then 15-year-old Maina Sunar of Kavrepalanchowk district, the district court has slapped life term on three Army officers involved in the murder. Then Colonel Bobby Khatri and Captains Sunil Prasad Adhikari and Amit Pun will have to serve only five years in jail as the crime happened while the individuals were on duty. Maina Sunar is perhaps the most talked about case in Nepal’s continued quest for justice to the victims of ten years of war (1996-2006).
Sunar’s family at least can breathe a sigh of relief and might feel a sense of closure after all these years of waiting. But the real justice will be done only when, as rightly said by Devi Sunar (late Maina Sunar’s mother), the verdict is truly implemented. It is now upon Nepal Police to make sure the convicts serve their jail time at the earliest. Moreover, this case also highlights the pain and complexities of dealing with war time cases. This case saw the closure only because of continued works of the family, several NGOs and INGOs inside and outside of Nepal.
As Nepal grapples with the realities of dealing with politically charged war time cases through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commissions for the Investigation of Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), the families of the victims continue to endure untold suffering and financial burden to fight the cases in the court of justice system. Unfortunately, the works of TRC and CIEDP have also been stalled due to infighting and political maneuvers. Members of TRC have been busy blaming each other for the Commission’s inability to initiate investigation into around 58,000 cases that have been registered so far. Needless to say, TRC and CIEDP are our homegrown efforts. While there are several issues with their mandate and scope of the work, the work has to begin at the earliest. There are thousands of families like Sunar’s that are waiting to close their cases for good. Lingering of war time cases have enormous social, psychological and economic costs to the family, society and the country as a whole.
While it’s easy for politicians and the political parties to blame TRC and CIEDP for being partisan, it is important for the country to begin the long and painful process of healing the wounds of families and societies. We just cannot shove it aside for our political expediency. This process is obviously going to be long and messy. Cambodia spent $300 million in the last 11 years and the Tribunal has so far only convicted three Khmer Rouge regime individuals who were involved in killing of 1.7 million Cambodians. It is now important that Bobby Khatri, who is believed to be outside the country, be brought back at the earliest to serve his sentence and Sunil Prasad Adhikari and Amit Pun be taken to serve their sentence without any delay. While these are important steps toward our effort to provide justice to war time victims, TRC and CIEDP have long and important works ahead. And they must begin the monumental task of investigation into the registered cases without any more delay.