Shifts in Nepal’s political landscape continued throughout 2017, with a new prime minister taking office in June. Local district elections, held for the first time in 20 years, were a significant step in the country’s political transition following the 1996-2006 civil war.
However, public differences between political parties and interest groups over power sharing underscored the country’s deep, ongoing rifts, which had intensified with the 2015 constitution.
Successive administrations stalled on delivering justice for atrocities committed during the decade-long civil war between government forces and insurgent Maoist forces. The slow pace of reconstruction efforts around the devastating 2015 earthquakes, mired by corruption, reinforced social and economic marginalization.
Severe flooding during the monsoon season from June to August affected an estimated 1.7 million people, with 65,000 homes destroyed and 461,000 displaced.
Transitional Justice and Accountability
Nepal’s transitional justice process has been plagued by a lack of political will from all parties, as well as the military. At least 13,000 people were killed and over 1,300 were forcibly disappeared during the country’s decade-long conflict, yet political leaders continue to neglect calls for accountability.
Although the mandate for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) was extended for another year in February 2017, political and resource constraints obstructed their work. The government failed to amend the commissions’ enacting law, despite pledges and two separate Supreme Court rulings that found the act contravenes international norms due to amnesty provisions. In August, the commissions began preliminary investigations into the more than 65,000 complaints they received. However, reports of flawed implementation, including lack of transparency and weak engagement with victims, sustained concerns among stakeholders.
Authorities consistently ignored court orders for investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. They failed for years to enforce repeated court summons and an arrest warrant for three army officers charged with the 2004 murder of a 15-year-old girl tortured to death in military custody. In April, the officers were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia, but the government has yet to take measures to locate the convicted and uphold the landmark verdict. A fourth officer tried in the case, Maj. Niranjan Basnet, was acquitted, which the district prosecutor declined to appeal in May.
In October, Maoist leader and former parliamentarian Bal Krishna Dhungel was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison on a conviction from 2004 for a 1998 murder, which he had long evaded through political protection. The Supreme Court had issued an order for his immediate arrest in April, yet he remained free for a further six months until a second contempt of court was filed against the police chief for failing to act. Dhungel’s party staged protests calling for his release.
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