Transitional justice: Breach of confidentiality emerging as ‘a worrisome trend’

- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu
Stakeholders express concern about information entering public domain about the complainants and against whom complaints have been registered

May 28, 2016-When transitional justice bodies started taking complaints from the second week of April from victims of the decade-long conflict, the conflict victims’ major concerns were confidentiality and security.

In about three weeks, complaint registration process will come to end, but several reports regarding complaints have surfaced, which go against the basic principle that was initially laid out—maintaining confidentiality.

Stakeholders have expressed serious concerns over reports entering the public domain about who are the complainants and against who the complaints have been registered.

On Friday, cases were registered against former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and former Army chief Rukmangud Katawal for their alleged involvement in serious rights violations during the decade-long conflict.

Earlier, reports had surfaced about complaints against former rebel commander and CPM (Maoist Centre) Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal, former home minister Khum Bahadur Khadka and former Maoist leader and coordinator of Naya Sakti Baburam Bhattarai among others.

“During our monitoring in the districts, victims have expressed concerns over surveillance by security personnel as well as political leaders,” said Ram Kumar Bhandari, general secretary of the Conflict Victims Common Platform. “Victims in the districts told us that they had received verbal threats and offers not to file complaints. There is no guarantee that information shared with Local Peace Committees (LPCs) will remain confidential.”

Transitional justice bodies, however, claim that they have taken “the highest possible measures” to ensure confidentiality. “We have used only the secretary and computer operator of LPCs,” said Surya Kiran Gurung, chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “The collected complaints are sealed and sent to the TRC.”

Breach of confidentiality is punishable as per the Transitional Justice Act as well as regulations, and officials involved in sharing information about complaints are liable to a fine of Rs 15,000 or three-month jail or both.

“Even we don’t know who are the complainants and against whom the complaints have been filed,” said Gurung, questioning the “source of media reports”.

Rights defenders say the trend of information being leaked, security agencies showing interest in the complaint registration process and reports surfacing in the media is worrisome.

“Reports about cases filed against powerful people have encouraged other victims to file cases against perpetrators, while exposing them to risk of being targeted,” said Santosh Sigdel, a rights lawyer. “If conflict victims want to go public, it is their choice, provided they are well informed about the consequences of their act.”

The transitional justice bodies argue that they have deployed commissioners across the country to monitor complaint registration.

However, low number of complaints against cases related to heinous crimes like murder and rape suggests that intimidation and threats could have played a crucial role.

The TRC till Friday had received 10,959 complaints, while the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons has so far registered 1,458 cases—97 percent of the 1,497 total incidents of disappearance registered by the Peace Ministry.

Published: 28-05-2016 07:57

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