August 30th International Day of the Disappeared

August 30th marks the International Day of the Disappeared. This year, NEFAD together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Nepal Red Cross Society will be hosting an event in the memory of the more than 1,400 people disappeared during the People’s War. Regional events will be held as well. The events are as follows:

Central Event in Kathmandu

1. Main event on August 30 ICRC, NRCS and NEFAD, interaction and press release program at NRCS Hall, Kalimati at 11:00 am (about 100 families are participating in this program)

2. Joint program with National Human Rights Commission in Lalitpur at 2:00 pm.

3. Joint event with TJ Advocacy Group in the evening – Lighting the Memory candles and musical program at Patan Durbarsquare. From 5:00 pm onwards

Regional events

Midwestern Region in Gulariya, Bardiya District (400 families are participating in this program)

Eastern Region in Jhapa District (100 families are participating)

In the rest of districts, NEFAD is coordinating for commemoration program with Nepal Redcross Society across Nepal.

NEFAD has also prepared the following Solidarity Postcard that has been distributed to more than 1400 families across Nepal to commemorate the day.

NEFAD Postcard

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From victims to actors: Mobilising victims to drive transitional justice process

This is a participatory action research project made in collaboration with NEFAD and three district associations of families of the disappeared in Nepal to advance their mobilisation. The research supported district family associations in Bardiya, Lamjung and Sunsari to interview their members to understand their needs of and constraints on mobilising to raise their voices as victims. The aim is both to understand the challenges of mobilisation and to concretely advance it: and to challenge a transitional justice process that has been entirely Kathmandu based and has marginalised victims. One output of this exercise is a NEFAD Plan of Action prepared in district and regional meetings over the last year that aims to both lay out ways forward for NEFAD and assist an engagement with donors to support the network.

The report was launched during a public element of NEFAD’s first national convention 13 -14th June in Kathmandu, attended by representatives of the families of the Missing from 30 districts. (A report will be posted here soon.)

The research report, NEFAD Plan of Action and other documents can be accessed here:

1. The Research report
2. A summary of the research and the NEFD plan of action (English and Nepali)
3. CVC Bardiya – Building a Family Association and lessons learned (Nepali)

NEFAD First National Convention June 13-14th Kathmandu

NEFAD has announced that it will hold its first National Convention on June 14th in Kathmandu. Family members from all of NEFAD’s affiliated district Family Associations will attend. The national meeting will continue the process of the widest possible discussion among families as to future activities and ways forward with mobilisation.

There will be a half day public meeting around the convention on June 14th. This will be an opportunity to present the participatory action research project (‘From victims to actors’), supported by the Berghof Foundation, that seeks to understand how families can most effectively be mobilised to impact on Nepal’s ongoing transitional justice process: to date victims have been spectators with the authorities and elite human rights NGOs engaged in a discussion that largely excludes those most affected by the violations of the conflict.

At the public meeting NEFAD will also present its Plan of Action: a way forward with activities that engage and support families in their communities and mobilise them through regional and national structures to advocate at the national level. NEFAD seeks support to raise the profile of families of the disappeared and ensure that the it can work to address the whole range of needs that families have.

Can we handle the truth? March 24th marks the international day of the right to truth concerning gross human rights violations and for the dignity of victims

Disappeared

“Nobody simply disappears. Every individual has a basic right of knowing what happened to their relative or relatives. No one should be left in the dark by someone saying ‘well, your relative simply vanished.’” These words by a Peruvian forensic anthropologist Pablo Baraybar best encapsulate the struggle of families of persons missing or disappeared as a result of conflict or repression.

The impact of disappearances on family members is devastating and long lasting. It impedes traditional practices of mourning and honoring the dead and leaves relatives in a kind of psychological limbo, unable to achieve closure. And this state of not knowing affects entire societies, gripping them in fear about the future and imposing silence about the past.

Armed with the Right to Truth, Families of the Missing Lobby to Learn Their Fate

In Lebanon today, 20 years after the end of its brutal civil war, the fates of more than 17,000 people remain unknown. In response to official silence, the families of the missing and forcibly disappeared have recently joined together with local and international civil society organizations to draft a law designed to help search for their loved ones.

The years of waiting for answers in Lebanon has been long, so long that some activists have died still not knowing what became of their loved ones. But this has only motivated those remaining to more strongly make their demand: “Dead or alive, it’s our right to know.”

This is taken from the ICTJ discussion of the international day for the right to truth, see more here.

Reflections on Nepal’s Peace Process, Chandra D. Bhatta

A new analysis piece on Nepal’s stalled peace process has been published by Chandra Bhatta and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung . Whilst it discusses the broader process, it does make clear the implications for families of the Missing of the direction it is now taking:

The recent four-point agreement between the Maoists and the UDMF renders redundant some of the major commitments made in the CPA as it spells out to with­draw all cases involving human rights violations pending against Madhesi and Maoist cadres during insurgencies, creation of a separate Madhesi army of 10,000, foreign policy tilt to India, etc. This holds out little hope for the establishment of two commissions – Truth and Recon­ciliation and Disappeared Persons – aiming to provide transitional justice.

The document can be found at: http://www.swisspeace.ch/countries/nepal/resources.html#c3307

Amendment to Limitation

The third amendment to the “Bill relating to providing for disappearances” put forth by the Transitional Justice Advocacy group deals with the section on limitation
Section 26 of the bill reads:
(1) The complaints shall have to be lodged within six months from the date a person is known to have disappeared, or the disappeared person becomes public.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-Clause (1), the complaints shall have to be lodged within six months of promulgation of this Act for those disappeared persons who were made disappeared before the commencement of this Act.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-Clause (2), the statute of limitation for bringing the complaints for the matters relating to the investigation to be carried out by the Commission shall be as prescribed by the Commission.
The proposed amendment states:
“There shall be no limitation for the offence of disappearance. Provided that, regarding the lodging of complaint in the Commission, complaint or information may be submitted to the commission under the procedure prescribed by the commission until the commission functions.”
With the following reasoning:
It is inherent characteristic of the act of enforced disappearance that the violation continues until the fate of the victim or the case of the disappearance is unresolved. Section (8) of the Convention against enforced disappearance clearly stated the continuous nature of the offence of disappearance. In its decision of  1 June 2008 the Supreme Court has stated that ‘provision on continuous search of the disappeared person is necessary until the fate of such person is resolved’. Nonetheless the fate of the disappeared is resolved, Section (8)(1)(a) of the convention states that the limitation is to be of long duration and proportionate to the extreme seriousness of this offence.

Amendment to Punishment

The second amendment to the “Bill relating to providing for disappearances” put forth by the Transitional Justice Advocacy Group is on the portion of the bill dealing with punishment
Section 6(1) of the bill reads:
Punishment: (1) The person, who commits the offence pursuant to this Act, shall be subjected to the following punishment:
(a)      If anyone, by knowing the period and even the condition of the disappearance, disappears a person; the principal offender shall be subjected to an imprisonment of up to seven years  years and a fine of up to Five Lac rupees.
(b)      The person who indulges in an attempt to disappearances, or engages in a conspiracy, or act as an accomplice, or assists in any manner whatsoever, shall be subjected to half of the punishment imposed to the principal offender.
The proposed amendment states:
The person, who commits the offence pursuant to this Act, shall be subjected to the following punishment:
(a) If anyone, disappears a person; the principal offender shall be subjected, taking into consideration the period and condition of disappearance, to an imprisonment of three to fifteen years and a fine of up to a million rupees.  Person committing a crime against humanity shall be liable for life-imprisonment.  
With the following reasoning:
It is an essential element of the justice system based on rule of law that the punishment for the offence should be proportional. When disappearance is carried ouunder systematic policy, it becomes heinous crime. Therefore, Section (7) of the Convention against Enforced Disappearance has provided that the punishment should address the ‘extreme  seriousness of the enforced disappearance’.