Of human rights

  • Parliament may not be in place by Feb 10 when terms of transitional justice bodies expire

Jan 4, 2018-

It is no secret that Nepal’s transitional justice mechanisms have been severely hobbled by lack of support from the government and weak legislation. Since their formation in 2015, the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have not been able to do much more than collect complaints.

Now there are concerns about their future. Their tenures expire on February 10. The CIEDP has requested an extension of three years, but this is not the only concern. Even if the extension is granted, the two bodies will find it impossible to work adequately unless Parliament passes additional amendments to bring the legislation in line with the Supreme Court judgment of 2015. This will include prohibiting mass amnesty and clarifying several terms. Furthermore, it is also necessary for the parties to pass legislation criminalising torture and disappearances, as well as establishing a Special Court to hear war-era crimes.

The parties have been aware that they need to address such issues for many years. The fact that they have not taken any step towards it indicates their disregard for the transitional justice process. In fact, it often seems that the parties would be happy to do away with transitional justice altogether. The only reason they agreed to the TRC and CIEDP was to placate international sentiment and demands from human rights activists and victims’ groups. Some senior leaders even seem to think that they have no need to worry, as demands for transitional justice will simply die out over time. Such leaders think the mere presence of the transitional justice institutions will convince the international community that Nepal is committed to human rights. When the international community forgets about the issue, then the commissions can be conveniently closed.

But post-conflict histories in various parts of the world demonstrate that demands for justice never completely fade away. In fact, they come back with a vengeance, sometimes several decades after the end of the conflict. Besides, by ignoring the transitional justice process, the parties are directly harming their own constituents, many of whom are victims of conflict. With the long-term view in mind, the parties should work towards amending the transitional justice legislation immediately.

The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction has already started drafting an amendment. There are indications that the draft sufficiently incorporates the Supreme Court order from 2015. There, however, is a danger that Parliament will not be in place by February 10, when the deadline for the commissions expires. If this is the case, the government should pass the draft amendment as an ordinance. This would finally enable the TRC and CIEDP some leeway to begin serious work on addressing over 60,000 complaints they have received.

Published: 04-01-2018 08:17

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