Make drafting of bill transparent: NHRC

- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu
Chairman Sharma urges rights defenders and civil society members to be critical about the government instead of transitional justice bodies

Dec 7, 2016-The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has questioned the government intent behind drafting an amendment bill to the transitional justice keeping from the constitutional body that is mandated to advise the government for review of laws and draft bills related to human rights. 

Immediately after assuming office in August, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had promised to expedite the transitional justice process by amending the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act in line with the Supreme Court verdict, international laws and transitional justice norms to deliver justice to the conflict victims. 

“The commission has not been informed about the amendment to the act, even after we officially requested the government for the proposed amendment draft,” said NHRC Chairperson Anup Raj Sharma, “Bringing the law discreetly is not democratic practice at all.”

The constitution has made it mandatory for the government to consult with the national rights watchdog for amendment to laws as well as drafting bills relating to human rights. The government has not shared any information with the commission so far--a clear breach of the constitution provision. 

The government has been ignoring recommendations made by the constitutional rights body. In 16 years, the commission recommended action in 735 cases of grave human rights violation, of which 105 recommendations have been implemented. All of the implemented cases are related to providing compensation to the victims, but not a single person has been held responsible for serious rights violation.

Speaking at a programme organised by the Amnesty International to mark the 68th International Human Rights Day on Tuesday, Sharma urged rights defenders and civil society members to be critical about the government instead of the transitional justice bodies. 

“When the government does not streamline the acts, denies adequate budget and staff, limiting the scope for the transitional justice commissions, I don’t think it is fair to criticise the commissions,” said Sharma. “What could really help is constant pressure to the government for victim centric laws drafted in consultation with rights activists, civil society members, and the commissions.”

Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons Chair Lokendra Mallick said the government should provide legal and logistic support to proceed with the investigation into the complaints received. “The commission was formed to deliver justice to the victims,” said Mallick, “The government should criminalise the act of disappearance.”

The commission has received over 2,800 complaints--double the number registered by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. Since there is no clarity on legal definition of disappearance, the commission has not been able to proceed with the investigation.  

Manchala Jha, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said that the commission is committed to prosecute perpetrators of serious rights violation. “We had forwarded eight-point legal suggestion for legal reforms in the existing law last year, but the government has not responded to it so far,” said Jha. 

Jha defended that resignation of the commissioners would not help as they have already registered over 58,000 complaints. “We have made commitment to victims for justice,” said Jha, “It would be helpful if all the stakeholders mount pressure on the government to streamline the legal framework.”

Rights defenders, however, criticised the transitional justice bodies for their abysmal performance in the past. Rights defender Charan Prasai said that the transitional justice commissions failed to win over the victims. “Commissioners either move the process forward or resign,” said Prasai, “Don’t hold the process hostage.”

Published: 07-12-2016 07:38

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