A step forward

  • Passage of the TRC bill marks the beginning of a long, difficult process

Apr 27, 2014-

The establishment of transitional justice mechanisms is an essential part of Nepal’s peace process, which has been pending for far too long. The passage of the bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances (CED) on Friday marks an important step forward in the unfinished transition. It has to be remembered, however, that the TRC law is only the beginning of a long and difficult process—to establish TRC mechanisms and then, to implement them. Nonetheless, this is the first time that a bill on transitional justice has been passed through Parliament since the peace process officially started with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. In that respect, the political parties need to be congratulated for standing on common political ground.

Still, there are those who believe that the TRC process should be revoked altogether. We believe that this is an unhelpful view. Granted, the law on transitional justice may not be perfect but there has never been a perfect transitional justice process anywhere in the world. In broad outlines, the new law seems to provide significant powers to the TRC to address the wounds of conflict, recommend reparations and heal society. Some remain against the clause that seems to allow the TRC the discretionary authority to pardon even serious violations of human rights, arguing that they are against international standards. It needs reminding that there has been no TRC in the world that has recommended prosecution for all cases of serious rights violations. In South Africa, for example, the TRC actually had the explicit power to allow amnesties for serious crimes. The South African model, regarded today as a major success, allowed society to face up to past atrocities, led to healing and thus, helped take the country forward.

Others argue that the new bill on transitional justice mechanisms does not take into account the needs of victims. That is not totally true. The recently passed law has made several amendments to previous provisions and put strong measures to help victims come forward and provide testimony and seek reparations. For example, the law includes provisions for a witness protection programme. Second, the law also states that amnesties can be provided only if victims are willing to reconcile with perpetrators. Some believe that the TRC allows for ‘blanket amnesties’. Again, this is not true. While it is true that the TRC has been given some discretionary powers in deciding which cases will be forwarded for prosecution, it will be very difficult to provide blanket amnesties for a number of reasons. The TRC’s work will be made public, will be subject to scrutiny and cannot just arbitrarily provide amnesties. As the TRC process is all set to begin (it can still be challenged in the court), the process needs to be carefully scrutinised to ensure it is not susceptible to political and partisan pressure.

Published: 28-04-2014 09:10

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