Around 30 people are believed to have been subject to enforced disappearance in Nepal between 1960 and 1989. This number increased exponentially during the ten-year conflict between Maoist guerrillas and the government in Kathmandu. More than 10,000 people died in the 1996-2006 war and more than 1,300 were reported as missing.
Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in November 2006, a Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances was to be established, but this was delayed by successive governments. A government initiative to drop proceedings against those accused of human rights violations, including murder and abductions, during the conflict, was challenged by the Supreme Court in 2012. In April 2014 a transitional justice bill mandating the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances was finally passed. Human rights groups have criticized the legislation, but its supporters insist that although it has been drafted in the context of transitional justice and with a view to facilitating implementation of the peace settlement, it will not allow impunity for serious crimes.
In February 2015, amid continuing controversy over their remit and the capacity of the existing legal system to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations, including enforced disappearance, are brought to trial, the two commissions were created (http://jurist.org/paperchase/2015/02/nepal-forms-commissions-to-probe-war-crimes.php). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will investigate abuses committed during the conflict, and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearance of more than 1,300 people still missing after the conflict ended in 2006. The commissions were to start investigations within six months of their creation and operate for two years.
Among the problematic aspects of the truth and reconciliation process is an institutional bias against investigation of violence against women perpetrated during the conflict. For example, Nepal’s Criminal Code retains a 35-day statute of limitations on reporting rape, which effectively bars investigation and prosecution of war-era rape. A 2012 report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented over 100 cases of sexual violence during the war. However, survivors of rape and sexual violence are not considered “conflict affected” and therefore have never been provided with relief from the state.
Amuda Shrestha of the Accountability Watch Committee, a Kathmandu-based human rights group, told the UN-affiliated news agency IRIN in July 2014 (http://www.irinnews.org/report/100423/little-hope-of-justice-for-nepal-s-war-time-rape-survivors) that convincing and giving confidence to women so they can speak about their experiences will be a challenge. “We’re talking about a society where survivors don’t even tell their own family members when they’re raped,” Shrestha explained. “How is the Act going to ensure that women get social, economic and other types of protection if they talk to the state?”
The absence of effective measures to prosecute perpetrators of wartime crimes involving violence against women has been echoed in postwar developments. A report issued in February 2015 (http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=92554) by the NGO Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) registered 309 victims of human rights violation by state actors in 2014: 63 of these cases involved women and 246 involved men. The overall number of victims was significantly lower than the 640 recorded in 2013. However, INSEC found that in 2014 the number of recorded human rights violations perpetrated by non-state actors increased significantly, and the victims were overwhelmingly female. Non-state actors were responsible for victimizing a total of 5,073 people, including 4,658 women, 411 men and four third-gender people. In 2013, the number of people victimized by non-state actors was 4,795.