Amnesty International representatives visited Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Wednesday and called on him to ratify a human rights treaty aimed at combating enforced disappearances.
Acting on behalf of the International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED), the delegation from Amnesty International Nepal delivered thousands of letters to the prime minister calling on him to ratify the treaty.
"Thousands of people have been subjected to enforced disappearances in Nepal and an even larger number of relatives and friends continue to live in an anguish of uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones," said Madhu Malhotra, Deputy Director, Asia-Pacific, Amnesty International. "Urgent and effective measures are needed to combat impunity for grave human rights violations in the country."
The visit to the prime minister came over two years after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Nepal on 1 June 2007, which found that the existing legal system in Nepal was ill-equipped to respond to the thousands of cases of disappearances.
The Court ordered Nepal's government to conduct law reform based on the UN's 2006 Convention against Enforced Disappearance and to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate past disappearances.
Two years later, law reform has not taken place and flawed legislation to establish the Commission of Inquiry is still pending before parliament.
During the Nepalese civil war between 1996 and 2006, Amnesty International documented the killing, enforced disappearance and torture of thousands of civilians. The army, the police and Maoist forces committed these crimes and other human rights violations.
More than two years after the adoption of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, none of those responsible for these horrific crimes, whether committed by state security forces or members of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), have so far been brought to justice and victims continue to wait for justice and redress.
In May 2009, a new political crisis emerged when then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned following the President's refusal to dismiss the head of the army. Since then, Nepal's Constituent Assembly elected Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) prime minister and a new government has been formed.
"It is vital that these recent political developments do not further delay the concrete steps that are necessary to end impunity in Nepal," Amnesty International said, urging the new government to proceed with ratification and other effective measures to ensure justice, truth and reparation for the victims and deter future crimes.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 the Convention against Enforced Disappearance was the culmination of a long effort by many families of disappeared persons, NGOs and governments to address the continuing problem of enforced disappearance through international law.
The Convention has been called the effective way to help prevent enforced disappearances, establish the truth about this crime, punish the perpetrators and provide reparations to the victims and their families.
"As countless persons continue to be 'disappeared' throughout the world, the prompt entry into force of the Convention and its ratification and effective implementation in all countries must be a priority for the international community and particularly for countries that have a legacy of enforced disappearances, such as Nepal," said Madhu Malhotra.