A recent story from our partner in Nepal, YAPE, illustrates the importance of prompt intervention in preventing a potential flashpoint from escalating into a major incident.
One morning in January this year two local drivers, Ranjan Kharel from Kharelthok and Debendra Tamang from Itahari, were standing chatting to each other at the local crossroads. Out of the blue two plain-clothes policemen approached them and for no reason began beating them up.
In response the Drivers’ Union called a road strike from 1pm the same day, all vehicles were prevented from travelling and people could not get to their destinations.
In the current unstable political climate in Nepal strikes can quickly get out of hand, become violent and seriously disrupt the lives of the locals.
However this time news immediately reached YAPE and they quickly began mediation between the police and drivers. The police promised that they would not attack the protestors and the union promised they would not attack drivers.
Within two hours the strike had been called off, the victims of the attack agreed to pursue legal avenues for compensation and the police agreed to take action against the guilty parties.
The use of mediation to settle disputes is increasingly important in Nepal. It is especially valuable in the current environment in which most disputes are not between political parties or party members but involve civil cases relating to domestic disputes and domestic violence.
Issues such as polygamy, arguments over dowries, petty theft, road accidents and disagreements over land boundaries are handled more and more through informal mediation outside state structures.
The formal justice systems in Nepal are fragile and hard to access and are not always effective for resolving such local disputes. Mediation is able to fill this gap by providing immediate, affordable and local dispute resolution.
At the same time the parties involved can include non-legal remedies such as an apology or other forms of justice that are based more upon community values and traditions than would be possible in a court of law.
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