Ruling Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) stance on justice and accountability came into sharp focus with 26 Jan appointment of Maoist leader Agni Sapkota as new Speaker of House of Representatives; Sapkota is currently facing charges for abduction and murder during Maoist-led insurgency. Human rights activist Sushil Pyakurel resigned 24 Jan from advisory position to President Bhandari after calls to withdraw case involving Sapkota; Pyakurel had been among those who encouraged Supreme Court in 2011 to open investigation into Sapkota’s alleged crimes. Victims of 10-year civil war rebuked 18 Jan agreement between NCP and opposition Nepali Congress to appoint officials for two transitional justice commissions; activists claimed parties’ handpicking of representatives undermined commissions’ independence. In joint statement NGOs Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists and TRIAL International 25 Jan expressed concerns about “serious setback on Nepal’s transitional justice”, said govt’s disregard for accountability will encourage victims to seek justice internationally under universal jurisdiction. Communist Party of Nepal led by hardline Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand claimed responsibility for 15 Jan IED explosion in capital Kathmandu; Nepal Army also defused several other IEDs planted in capital same day.
Since it was passed amid deadly protests in September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution has deepened ethnic, social and political fractures. The country’s national parties and protesting groups need to find ways to address constitutional disagreements and underlying disputes. There is a clear risk of escalating violence unless all sides understand that without compromise and good faith Nepal faces an existential threat.
Nepal’s major political parties must urgently agree on a roadmap to negotiate on federalism and write the new constitution, whether by holding elections to a new Constituent Assembly or reviving the previous body.
With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.
Nepal’s Maoist combatants urgently need to be integrated into the national security forces and rehabilitated or retired to consolidate the peace process.
The parties to Nepal’s fitful peace process have less than eight weeks to agree on integration of Maoist combatants and federalism before the term of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution expires.
International Crisis Group worked regularly on Nepal from 2003-2012, publishing 33 reports in the period leading up to and following the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Since 2012, Crisis Group has maintained a watching brief on the country.