Seeing is believingGovt should remove all doubts among conflict victims about the dispensation of justice
In perhaps the first sign of good faith, the government has proposed to retain a strong definition of murder in the draft amendment to the Transitional Justice Act, stamping out any scope for amnesty for crimes under this category committed during the conflict. The new draft replaces the content in the earlier version that sought to define murder as “an act of killing under control”.
The revised draft also brings down the list of serious crimes from nine to four to include murder, rape, enforced disappearances and torture.
Conflict victims and human rights activists have long demanded a water-tight definition of serious crime to rule out any possibility of a political decision to provide amnesty to perpetrators.
The revision also categorises acts of abduction and hostage-taking, mutilation or disability, forceful eviction from house and land or any other kind of displacement, inhuman acts inconsistent with international human rights or humanitarian law, and looting, possession, damage or arson of private or public property as other acts of rights violations.
In the absence of government cooperation and the lack of a legal framework criminalising serious offenses, the two-year mandate of the two transitional justice bodies—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP)—will expire in less than two months without their making significant progress.
Although the commissioners of the TRC and the CIEDP have reached out to the victims and tried their best to gain their support, victims’ groups still remain sceptical, since there are serious flaws in the legislation, which the government is yet to rectify.
The TRC and the CIEDP commissioners have repeatedly urged the government to amend the law in accordance with the Supreme Court judgment so that they will be able to complete their work in a manner that is consistent with international law and satisfactory to the victims. Neither the previous Oli government nor the current Dahal government has done much to expedite the work of the commissions, even as Nepal marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) two weeks ago. The CPA had committed to forming the transitional justice mechanisms within six months of its signing and much swifter action in providing justice and closure to the victims and their families.
We welcome the Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha’s commitment to assure the victims that justice will be served. He has clearly stated that the government would retain the old definition in the case of murder. But as the saying goes, seeing is believing. The government needs to get the amendment approved in Parliament. Conflict victims have been let down repeatedly by successive governments and all the major party leaders. The time for assurances has long been over; now it is time for action.