Published in The Himalayan Times on Sep. 16 ::
Healing scars left by conflict and rights abuses
There is an urgent need to adopt comprehensive reparations measures to heal the scars left by the decade-long conflict and human rights abuses in Nepal, an international expert on reparative justice system has said.
Taking to this daily in the capital, Ruben Carranza, director of the Reparative Justice Programme at the New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice, stressed that Nepal should adopt comprehensive, broad-based, inclusive as well as integrated reparations process.
“Interim relief programmes could be a part but they can’t substitute the reparations processes and it is not just an issuance of relief through material benefits which highly ignores other consequences of violations,” he said, urging all stakeholders to address the absence of victim participation, and non-monetary and symbolic reparations while commencing the future reparations measures.
Acknowledging the suffering of victims, considering the root causes of the conflict, and recognising the social and economic status of the victims that they seek to repair, the government must incorporate reparations justice mechanisms in its development policies, he said.
Referring to the findings of a recent study carried out by ICTJ in different 10 districts with 400 victims of human rights abuses by state and the then Maoist rebel, Ruben, who served in the UN Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the 2003 UN Convention against Corruption, said that the respondents emphasised socioeconomic needs including financial support, employment, free education and medical care as well as other subsistence needs like food, shelter and clothing. “Reparations are the most tangible form of recognition and redress in responding to the loss and material harm caused by the abuses in Nepal.”
Emphasising the need of widely accepted truth and reconciliation commission, Ruben, who was also the commissioner in charge of litigation and investigation in the Philippine commission that managed to successfully recover $680 million of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos’ ill-gotten assets hidden in banks in Switzerland, US and other countries, said there remained many challenges which need to be overcome in Nepal’s socio-demographic set up while dealing with reparations activities at grass-roots level. “Reparative justice programmes should be locally based and determined largely by what happened in Nepal where reparations programmes can work with an integrated approach to transitional justice,” he added.
Ruben, who also met policymakers, political and government leaders, found that Nepali politicians have a will power to translate their words into action. “I hope there are comprehensive plans, policies and programmes in near future to address the concerns of the victims of conflict and human rights abuses,” he concluded.
What needs to be done
• Establishment an urgent reparations programme to alleviate the most acute socioeconomic needs of victims in Nepal
• Issuing government directives to secure legal interests of spouses or families of the disappeared to land or other property
• Reviewing the planned psychosocial support programme under interim relief programme to ensure inclusion of survivors of torture, rape and sexual and gender-based violence
• Undertaking consultations with victims to ensure that longer-term reparations measures to respond to the specificity of conflict harms and the related needs of survivors
• Establishing a sequencing of benefits and objective, transparent criteria for prioritising beneficiaries within each sequence and type of benefit
• Linking material measures to nonmaterial measures that acknowledge the status of the beneficiaries as citizens who were harmed as a result of human rights violations committed against them
• Initiating dialogue with victims, development partners and other relevant stakeholders on how reparations policies could contribute to addressing the root cause of conflict and human rights violations.