Without a traceNepal’s transitional justice mechanisms have fallen sorely short of international standards
On Wednesday, Nepal commemorated the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. And on the eve of this day, the International Commission of Jurists released a report ‘No more missing persons: the criminalisation of enforced disappearance in South Asia’. Providing an overview of the practice of enforced disappearance in five South Asian countries—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal—the report highlights a particularly alarming fact: none of these countries have criminalised enforced disappearance despite the fact that the South Asian region has some of the highest numbers of reported cases of disappearances in the world. Given this situation, the ICJ has called for the cases of enforced disappearance to be recognised as a serious crime under national law to ensure justice to victims.
Enforced disappearance is a gross human rights violation and considered a crime under international law. Nepal must recognise the gravity of such a crime and establish commensurate penalties. This lack of legislation is just one of the many problems Nepal’s transitional justice process is suffering from. Hampered by a deeply flawed legal mandate, the transitional justice mechanisms have been remiss in holding perpetrators to account. Another controversial facet of these mechanisms is their ability to recommend amnesty for serious human rights violations and abuses. The non-consultative, uncoordinated and opaque approach they have taken gives further cause for distrust and consternation amongst all major stakeholders, including conflict victims and members of civil society.
That Nepal’s transitional mechanisms must undergo serious reforms in line with international human rights standards and the directive of Nepal’s Supreme Court in order to provide justice for victims of conflict-era human rights violations and abuses is a fact that has been reiterated many a time. Nepal’s decade-long civil war claimed more than 13,000 lives and the whereabouts of around 1,400 people are still unknown. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) was formed by the government in 2014 to fulfil commitments under the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord. Nearly three years have passed since the Commissions were established, yet the victims of serious human rights violations and abuses are still searching for justice. The transitional justice mechanisms, it seems, have fallen sorely short of international standards, both in constitution and operation.
A draft legislation to criminalise enforced disappearance is under consideration in Nepal. Perhaps this is reason for hope that the state is not proving entirely deaf to the recommendations of the ICJ. But this singular move is not nearly enough to remedy the weak legal mandate, especially considering that the bill is flawed and far from meeting international standards. Nepal is still in dire need of a clear national legal framework in regards to enforced disappearances.