National rights body slams weak penalties for war crimes

  • Transitional Justice
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Aug 9, 2018-

The National Human Rights Commission has objected to some penalty provisions proposed in the draft bill of the transitional justice act and recommended at least 59 changes, arguing they are too lenient. The group has particularly expressed concern over the provision that suggests only three years of community service as punishment for perpetrators of war crimes, and advised the government to make necessary changes, so the punishments fit the crimes.

The provision states that those perpetrators who co-operate during investigation would be considered for commutation of jail sentence. Such persons would be fined up to Rs 500,000 and be put to community service for three years. During the period of community service, they would not be allowed to take up jobs or positions of profit.

The commission described the provision as a mere tokenism and urged the government to be serious about prosecuting the crimes that were committed by the Maoist insurgents as well as the state security forces during the decade-long conflict.

“One found guilty in severe cases of human rights violations must be jailed. Only community service is not going to work,” said NHRC member Sudip Pathak. “It will be injustice to the victims if the perpetrators don’t even get jail sentence.”

Besides, the draft bill also proposes several other concessionary clauses that allow war criminals to contest for reduced sentence. One such clause mentions  that perpetrators could get their sentence reduced by up to 75 percent if they accept their crimes, beg pardon for their actions, and agree to pay the reparation amount.

Furthermore, they would be kept in an “open prison” that the government is planning to set up.

The national human rights body has strongly recommended the government to incorporate at least 25 percent of the jail term, as envisioned by the existing criminal code. It has also called for changing the provision that proposes transferring all sub-judice cases, except those at the Supreme Court, to the special court.

The special court would be formed after the two transitional justice bodies— Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP)— have completed investigating into the war-era crimes and of human rights violations.

The government had drafted an amendment to the Act on Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that directed the former to amend a dozen provisions in the Act that are inconsistent with the international laws and transitional justice norms.

While the NHRC has welcomed the provisions that denies amnesty for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, rape and torture, and unlimited statute of limitations for registering complaints against war crimes, it has expressed reservations on the provisions that are likely to let off war criminals with minimum penalty.

Conflict Victims Common Platform, an umbrella body of 13 organisation fighting for the rights of war victims, Amnesty International, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,  International Commission of Jurists and TRIAL International have also expressed their dissatisfaction over the draft bill.

More than three years into formation, the CIEDP has received around 3,000 complaints so far, while the TRC has recorded 63,000 complaints.

Published: 09-08-2018 08:20

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