UN pushes Nepal to amend Transitional Justice Act in a strongly worded letter

  • UN officials, in a 10-page letter, also reminded the Foreign Ministry of their repeated requests for a visit by the Special Rapporteur
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Apr 18, 2019-

A little over a month after Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali assured the international community that Nepal would amend its Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court ruling and international commitments, the United Nations has expressed its serious concern over the selection process of new leadership in the two transitional justice commissions and the delay in Act amendment.

In a letter from five special rapporteurs under the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent to Gyawali, the agency has sought transparency and proper consultation before selecting the members and chairpersons in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearance.

In the 10-page letter, which was sent through Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the rapporteurs have said the existing selection procedure lacks impartiality, independence and transparency.

The rapporteurs from the high commissioner’s office had raised similar concerns some five years ago before the leadership of the two commissions, who retired on April 14, was selected.

The government on March 25 formed a five-member committee led by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra to select the chairpersons and members in the two commissions.

The conflict victims and human rights community, however, have been sceptical about the committee, saying it was formed without prior consultation with them.

The committee, which called applications from the interested candidates on April 8 with a week-long deadline, has extended that until April 25 at the request of conflict victims and human rights defenders.

This is the fourth time since 2012 that the special rapporteurs have written to the Nepal government, expressing concerns over the transitional justice process in the country.  The Nepali side, however, has responded only once-in 2014.

“We encourage you to respond to the remaining communications,” the letter from the UN reads.

Around 63,000 complaints have been filed at the two commissions since they were set up four years ago. But the commissions have failed to make any significant progress in the investigation into the cases. The letter says the two commissions have also failed to properly study the nature and patterns of violations, identify the perpetrators of severe crimes, including sexual violence and rape, and recommend reparations to the victims.

The rapporteurs also have restated their concerns regarding the provisions of the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014.

The law continues to be inconsistent with international human rights norms, including those granting the two commissions mandate to recommend amnesties for perpetrators of gross human rights violations and initiate reconciliation processes in the absence of a request by the victim.

“We therefore strongly call on your government to urgently initiate a process of amendment of the Act, in line with international standards,” the rapporteurs said in the statement. “Such amendment should follow appropriate consultation with victims, families of victims, civil society and the national human rights commission.”

Furthermore, the United Nations has asked the Nepal government to recall the ruling from the country’s Supreme Court. In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down the amnesty provision and said the consent of the victims was necessary for any reconciliation.

The letter also has reminded Gyawali of his address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, in which he said the transitional justice laws would be amended as guided by the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Supreme Court directives, and international commitments.

Gyawali had also assured that there would be no blanket amnesty in the cases of serious violations of human rights.

The strongly-worded letter from the UN has also nudged Nepali officials about the pending requests for a visit from the Special Rapporteur. “We look forward to receiving your invitation to visit the country soon,” the statement said.

The rapporteurs also have sought government’s clarification on any measure it has taken or intends to take to make the two transitional justice bodies more effective.

An official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the letter with the media, confirmed that the letter from the UN was still at the Permanent Mission of Nepal in Geneva and that it would be dispatched to Kathmandu soon. The official also said that the ministry would decide whether to reply to the concerns after reading upon it.

However, ministry spokesperson Bharat Raj Paudyal said he had no official information about the letter.

Human rights advocates say the government should take heed of observations from the United Nations and address them as much as possible.

“This is also the reflection of how the world perceives our government,” said Charan Prasain, a human rights defender. “The government must be serious before the transitional justice issues get internationalised.”

Published: 18-04-2019 11:13

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