Nepali Times
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The long, long wait


RAMKUMAR BHANDARI in LAMJUNG


PICS: RAMKUMAR BHANDARI
ONLY MEMORIES: Laxmi Bhandari looks at the photograph of her husband, Tej Bahadur Bhandari, who was disappeared by the army in 2002.
"We don't want compensation, just tell me the truth about my husband, is he dead or alive," says Maiya Basnet, whose husband, Krishna Bahadur, was disappeared by the police nine years ago in Lamjung.

Maiya is the chair of the Committee for Social Justice in Besisahar that works with families of the 26 people from Lamjung who were disappeared during the conflict. "As long as I don't know about him, it is as if he is dying every day," adds Maiya.

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in November 2006 the government and the seven parties agreed to inform relatives within 60 days about those disappeared or killed during the conflict. Nearly two years have passed, and families like those of Maiya are still waiting.

On 1 June 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to resolve the question of disappearances, including establishing an independent commission of inquiry based on international human rights standards. The government decided to set up a commission, but immediately came under fire from rights groups which said it was a whitewash.
Instead of making separate laws to deal with crimes such as disappearances, it was proposed that the disappearance clause in the Mulki Ain should be amended. The Home Ministry did form a committee to draft the bill on disappearances, but it hasn't been ratified yet.

While national and international organisations hold seminars, discussions, and meetings in the capital, the families of more than 1,000 officially listed as disappeared continue to grieve silently all over the country.

Maiya Basnet with other women whose relatives were disappeared in Lamjung during the war.
Unless those responsible for writing the laws listen to the victims and their families, they will not be able to draft just laws. The interim parliament, although committed to finding out the truth about the disappeared, dragged its feet on the law. With both the protagonists of the war now in government, there appears to be a hidden effort to sweep truth and justice under the carpet.

But there is hope. Eight members of the Constituent Assembly are family members of the disappeared. Other families are also hopeful that the new Maoist-led government will do more to finally tell them what had happened. The Maoist election manifesto states that a high-level committee will be formed to investigate cases of disappearances and strict action will be taken against those responsible. But for now this has been restricted to lip service. There is a fear among the families that the Maoist will also not fulfil their promises.

There are no records or reports on the disappeared. No evidence to present before the courts. Amnesty and reparations proposed by various draft bills in the past will not help the quest for justice, and may undermine the peace process. The families of the disappeared have no other option but to be organised so they can lobby the new government to fulfil its promises.

Ram Kumar Bhandari's father was disappeared by the Army in 2002. He is the coordinator of Committee for Social Justice.

READ ALSO
'How can we forget' - FROM ISSUE #389 (29 FEB 2008 - 06 MARCH 2008)



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