Trauma in transitionTenures of toothless transitional justice bodies need to be renewed; given greater independence
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on the Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were formed almost three years ago. But the two transitional justice bodies have not managed to undertake much work, besides collecting around 63,000 complaints from conflict victims.
At the beginning of 2017, the tenure of these commissions was coming to an end and there were concerns that this could adversely impact the transitional justice process. At the last moment, the government extended the terms of these bodies by a year. Now there is a similar crisis looming.
The TRC’s and CIEDP’s terms are coming to an end in February 2018. And this time the terms cannot just be extended through a Cabinet decision, but will require an amendment to the legislation governing these bodies. The legislation says that the commissions will have tenures of two years, and that the government can extend them by a year. It does not have provisions for further extensions.
There are still a few months remaining before the deadline and therefore enough time to pass the amendment bills. Granted, Parliament is not currently in existence. But it will be formed sometime in December, after the elections are held. The parties can amend the legislation sometime in December or even January. This should not be a problem, since all the parties have said that they are willing to extend the tenure of the two transitional justice bodies.
Still, the extension alone will not automatically lead to progress in the transitional justice process. It is evident that the parties are not keen at all to push forward with historical accountability and prosecutions. In fact, at least some of the parties view the transitional justice commissions as a facade, which is intended to demonstrate to the international community that they are doing something to ensure post-conflict justice rather than to actually ensure justice for victims.
If Nepal is to actually undertake a credible transitional justice process, much more work will be required than just extending the tenure of the TRC and the CIEDP. For one, the transitional justice legislation will have to be amended in line with the Supreme Court verdict of 2015, which has prohibited the commissions from allowing mass amnesty. In addition, the modalities for prosecution will also have to be worked out. While there have been proposals for the establishment of special courts in the past, these need to be fully fleshed out in a way that fulfills the Supreme Court’s decision. And not least, the TRC and CIEDP have to be strengthened so that they are free from political intervention and are capable of adequately investigating the 63,000 cases before them.
For now, the political parties may be currently consumed by elections, but they should start thinking about how to address these issues once Parliament is reconvened.