Widespread disappearances still unresolved despite peace

Shanta Bhandari says she has been desperately searching for her son, Bipin, since 2002 when he was arrested by government security forces and disappeared.

“We want to wage a war against this government,” said Bhandari.

Thousands of families of missing persons have said that they will begin a nationwide demonstration for an indefinite period starting on Monday as they are frustrated by what they say is the government’s apathy and negligence towards them.

“There seems to be no other way out. Now we are taking to the streets to pressure this government to take some initiative to find our sons and daughters,” Bhandari told IRIN.

According to local NGO the Society of the Families of the Disappeared, there are more than 5,000 people still missing after their forced disappearances during the country’s civil war, which lasted for more than a decade.

A November 2006 peace agreement brought a truce, ended the King’s direct rule, and disarmed Maoist rebels who later joined a coalition government with seven other national parties.


''There seems to be no other way out. Now we are taking to the streets to pressure this government to take some initiative to find our sons and daughters.''

The new government promised the families of missing persons that it would reveal the status of all their disappeared relatives, said Bhandari.

World’s highest number of disappearances

During the breakdown of peace talks in 2001 and 2003, the government arrested or abducted anyone it thought was a Maoist. Maoist rebels did the same for anyone they deemed a government spy. During these years, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said Nepal had the highest number of disappeared people in the world.

“The government’s seriousness towards this issue is lacking and despite calls to form a higher level commission [to look into the matter of the diappeared] with members including the families of the disappeared persons, it has done nothing,” said Shyam Bahadur Kafle, protection officer of the Disappearance and Abduction unit of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

UN and aid agencies concerned

The United Nation’s human rights agency (OHCHR) in Nepal said it was concerned about the government’s delay in resolving the issue of the disappeared.

“Delays in setting up proper, independent inquiries to clarify the fate of all the disappeared is simply prolonging the agony of their families - who do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones or what happened to them - as well as denying them the right to truth and justice,” said Lena Sundh, OHCHR Nepal representative.

Earlier this month, OHCHR officials called on the Nepalese government to fulfill its commitment by holding broad consultations with civil society and other interested parties in order to establish an independent commission to look into the cases.


''It’s shocking that despite such a high number of disappearances, not a single case has been tried or any perpetrators brought to justice despite evidence against them.''

The Maoists, too, have failed to respond to the request of rights groups to reveal the names of people they had abducted, said NHRC officials.

“We don’t want any more disappearances and we don’t want more people to suffer like us,” said Bhandari. She and other mothers of the disappeared recently met senior army officers dealing with human rights issues but the officers failed to give them convincing answers, said Bhandari.

When approached by IRIN, the army officers were unavailable to comment on the issue.

Human rights activists are appalled at the government’s lack of action.

“It’s shocking that despite such a high number of disappearances, not a single case has been tried or any perpetrators brought to justice despite evidence against them,” said prominent human rights lawyer Mandira Sharma from Advocacy Forum, which has been actively fighting a system of impunity over the past few years.

nn/ar/ed

see also
Families demand to know fate of missing relatives