March 16, 2020 10:32 AM NPT
Missing complaints of conflict victims
When the terms of transitional justice bodies—Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP)—came to an end in April, 2019, one of the major concerns of the victims as well as the rights activists was what would happen to the complaints filed at TRC and CIEDP? Will they be protected? Who will protect those documents so that the top officials to succeed the chief commissioners and commissioners of these bodies will be able to build on whatever little progress made over the years? Will the victims be provided justice? These fears, it seems, are turning into reality if a case reported from Rolpa is anything to go by. The conflict victims of Rolpa had filed complaints at CIEDP to find the whereabouts of those who were disappeared during the insurgency. A total of 132 complaints were filed at CIEDP three years ago. The CIEDP does not have more than 98 complaints with it now. The rest, apparently, have disappeared.
Troublingly, the commission itself is not clear about how there are lesser files of complaints available than earlier recorded. Dhan Bahadur Rokka of Rolpa, a local journalist, was abducted in 2002 by Maoist rebels and ever since his whereabouts are unknown. His wife Dilkumari filed a complaint at CIEDP three years ago with the registration number 1511. But it is not in the list anymore. There are many others like Dilkumari in the district. This has made the victims give up hope of justice. Officials at the CIEDP have said that they will look into this matter, search the documents and punish those who may be behind this grave negligence. But what if the documents are not found? Punishing the culprits might not bring them back.
In four years, from 2015 to 2019, a total of 3,197 complaints were filed at the CIEDP. Of them 414 complaints were referred to the TRC. The CIEDP had completed the detailed investigation into 2,008 cases before wrapping up its works. Likewise, as many as 61,000 cases were filed at the TRC. Of them, TRC had concluded preliminary investigations into about 3,000 cases. The case of Rolpa—we hope the documents are only misplaced and they will be recovered—shows that thousands of these complaints which lie in different district offices of TRC and CIEDP could be unsafe or even missing. This also reflects on how poorly the officials of TRC and CIEDP, who have been entrusted to carry out the most sensitive jobs of finding truths, completing investigations and ensuring justice to the conflict victims, have been acting insensitively and irresponsibly. Conflict victims have already turned desperate by the reluctance of ruling and opposition parties to amend the TRC law and speed up the process of resolving the conflict-era cases. Political parties have failed to ensure timely justice and reparation to them. Now, when their complaints go missing or are not protected, it will erode the credibility of transitional justice mechanisms as well as the government. The case of Rolpa calls for officials in TRC and CIEDP to take extra measures to protect their vital documents without which no investigation may be carried out. Above all, those responsible for mishandling the vital documents should be punished severely.