Realm of rightsThe primary responsibility for improving transitional justice lies with govt and parties
For many years now, the state and political parties have treated the issue of transitional justice as an afterthought. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were formed after years of delay, and even then they were given scant resources and power.
Now that their tenures are set to expire in February, the government has decided to issue an ordinance to extend their terms by a year. It is clear that this is an ad hoc step, meant not to address the underlying issues but simply to avoid any complications that might crop up. No wonder then that no concerned party is happy with the decision. Conflict victims say that an extension is meaningless without an amendment to the legislation that would incorporate the Supreme Court’s 2015 order to remove amnesty provisions. The TRC commissioners themselves state that there is not much they can do with an additional year, given the high number of complaints and the lack of resources given to the commissions.
The Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP) has recently been taking a proactive step in outlining their demands of the government and evaluating the role of the commissions. The CVCP believes that the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards transitional justice is the fundamental reason underlying the lack of progress in transitional justice.
However, conflict victims are in no mood to let the TRC and CIEDP off the hook so easily. They state that these commissions have not performed adequately even within the remit that has been offered them, pointing to the extremely slow progress in investigations. They are also concerned about some of the decisions taken. Most recently they opposed the CIEDP’s decision to classify 400 cases of disappeared persons as cases of killing without any investigation.
The CVCP is now demanding that the TRC and CIEDP prepare progress reports to demonstrate what has been accomplished so far. In fact, this would be a very good idea. By releasing a report of this nature, the TRC and CIEDP could contribute to the debate on transitional justice, offer victims’ families hope, as well as pressure the government to pass necessary legislation to make the process more robust.
The primary responsibility for improving the transitional justice process lies with the government and the political parties. They have no excuse, as they have known for years what they have to do in order to make the process more effective. There is no need for negotiation anymore. It would be sufficient for them to pass an amendment that has already been formulated at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR), which incorporates the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision. Similarly, legislation on criminalising disappearances and torture has already been drafted, and can easily be passed if there is adequate political will. These are relatively easy steps that would bring major improvements to the transitional justice process.