Paves way for formation of two commissions to ensure transitional justice

- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu
Paves way for formation of two commissions to ensure transitional justice

May 11, 2014-

The President approved the transitional justice bill on Sunday, paving the way for the formation of the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappearances, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Comprehensive Peace Agreement had envisaged the commissions within six months of its signing in 2006.

After two earlier attempts by the UCPN (Maoist)-led government, the present coalition of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML finally drafted the bill that was passed by a majority in Parliament.

The controversy, however, continued to dog the bill since its drafting began—first over the formation of an experts’ taskforce and then over the contents. The government had formed a bureaucratic panel to draft the bill, which was ultimately reviewed by a six-member team of political leaders, two members each from the three major political parties—NC, UML and UCPN (Maoist).

After Parliament passed the bill last month, the President’s Office took two weeks to scan through the bill and approve it. According to President’s legal advisor Surya Dhungel, the President took his time consulting the law minister, the attorney general and the law secretary for clarity.

The bill has now become an Act, but the provisions of amnesty and reconciliation remain controversial. While the government is adamant on reconciliation, victims’ groups object to amnesty for perpetrators of grave human rights violation.

“If we look at the bill from the rights perspective, there might be room for reform, but it’s up to the government,” said Dhungel.

The provision on amnesty states that the commission will not pardon perpetrators of serious crimes if its investigation fails to find sufficient grounds for amnesty. Experts interpret this the other way: if the commission finds no reason to hold perpetrators accountable even in grave cases, it will let them go.

“The bill has given us hope as well as despair,” said Suman Adhikari, president of Conflict Victims Orphan Society. “We will not be assured of justice until some provisions in the bill are amended.”

Raju Chapagain, a legal advocate who was a member of the experts’ task force, said that some of the provisions still need revision but an amendment bill will have to be tabled in Parliament.

“A judicial review should be the final resort to rectify problematic provisions in the bill,” said Chapagain.

Former commissioner at National Human Rights Commission Gauri Pradhan said there are provisions contradicting the Interim Constitution. “For instance, the bill proposes a former chief justice as the head of a five-member recommendation committee which will select the chairpersons and members of the two commissions. This is inconsistent with the constitutional provision,” he said.

Article 106 (2) of the constitution states that any person who has held the office of the chief justice or a judge at the Supreme Court is ineligible for an appointment to government service, except for the post of NHRC chairperson.

The next step in transitional justice is the formation of the recommendation committee, a member of which should be either the chairperson of or a commissioner at NHRC. The human rights body, however, has been without a single commissioner since September last year.

Published: 12-05-2014 08:34

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