Law minister-led mechanism to decide future of transitional justice

  • Sources say the body will seek participation of all stakeholders, including conflict victims
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Jan 27, 2019-

With just two weeks remaining for the mandates of two transitional justice bodies to expire, confusion looms over Nepal’s transitional justice process, which has dragged on for more than a decade since the end of the civil war. 

Two days ago, the international community in Nepal—nine foreign missions based in Kathmandu at the initiative of the United Nations—called on the government to clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019 and ensure broader consultation with the stakeholders.

Amid this, the government is working to form a mechanism—to be led by Minister for Law and Justice—with a long-term mandate to hold consultations with different stakeholders “to conclude the entire process”, sources close to the matter told the Post on Saturday.

The mechanism, to be announced in a couple of days, will have representations from conflict victims along with the government officials, and it will first work to amend the exiting Transitional Justice Act.

An amendment to the Act is a must to extend the terms of the two transitional justice mechanisms—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. 

As per the government’s plan, the Act will be amended after discussions with conflict victims, the international community and human rights defenders. Formation of a high-level mechanism is one of the major demands of Conflict Victims Common Platform, a formal group of conflict victims. The law ministry, as a liaison government entity, on Sunday will write to the conflict victim organisations for their participation in the mechanism, according to the sources. 

A senior government official, who is closely working on the amendment draft, said the mechanism will start its work once the victims’ organisations send their representatives. 

“For now, the mechanism won’t have representation of human rights defenders,” he told the Post requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak before the formal decision. 

Another source privy to the ongoing development told the Post that given the time constraint, the Act will first be amended to extend the terms of the TRC and the CIEDP. 

The mechanism then will work to revise the law as per the 2015 Supreme Court verdict, international obligations and feedback from the different stakeholders.

The international community and rights bodies have long been calling on the Nepal government to amend the transitional justice laws in line with the 2015 top court verdict and international obligations, which had struck down the provisions of amnesty to those involved in grave human rights violations during the decade-long Maoist war. 

Meanwhile, conflict victims and civil society members have been demanding that the transitional bodies be revamped, because they have largely failed to deliver in the last four years. It will be another issue of importance that the to-be-formed mechanism will have to take seriously and seek consensus on, said the source. 

The two commissions in the last four years have failed to make much progress, as they are hamstrung not only by the lack of resources but also by lack of laws. But more than that, there has been a lack of political will to take the transitional justice process to conclusion. 

Then rebel group, the Maoist party, has now united with another communist party, the then CPN-UML, to form the Nepal Communist Party which is in the government at present. As of now, there is no clarity from the government as to how it wants to take the transitional justice process forward. 

The TRC has hardly completed preliminary investigation into less than 10 percent of cases—of around 63,000 complaints registered. Though the CIEDP has completed its first round of investigation into over 75 percent of cases, similar to TRC, it is yet to complete a detail investigation into a single case. The terms of the two commissions formed in 2015, almost 10 years after the peace deal, will expire on February 9. 

Sources say the terms of the two commissions will be extended by a few months “for now” to buy time to forge consensus on other complex issues which include the process of prosecution, penalty and reparation, among others. 

Bhagiram Chaudhari, chairman of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, said formation of a mechanism under law minister is a welcome decision and that victims “will participate in it”. 

“The mechanism, however, should focus on entire transitional justice process, not just on consultation for an amendment to the existing Act,” he told the Post. Ram Bhandari, who led the process of forming Conflict Victims National Network which was instituted after splitting from Conflict Victims Common Platform, said that they will decide on their participation only after evaluating the intention behind formation of the mechanism. 

The leaders of the network, formally formed on Saturday, has been voicing against formation of any mechanism. 

Published: 27-01-2019 07:27

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