Goodwill huntingThere is absolutely no doubt that Nepal’s transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms have been severely hobbled by a lack of support from successive governments and by weak legislation.
There is absolutely no doubt that Nepal’s transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms have been severely hobbled by a lack of support from successive governments and by weak legislation. Three years have passed since their formation in 2015, and yet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on the Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) have not closed even one of the more than 60,000 cases lodged. Preliminary probes have been conducted into only a tiny fraction of these.
The two bodies must undergo serious reform in line with international human rights standards and the directives of the Supreme Court (SC) in order to provide justice for the victims of conflict-era human rights violations and abuses. The SC in 2015 called for amendments to bring the transitional justice legislation in line. A flawed legal mandate allows the commissions to recommend amnesty for serious human rights violations and abuses, among a host of other limitations. And while amendments have been drafted by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, they are yet to be passed. The crux of the issue here is that until this happens, neither of the two commissions can make any serious headway in addressing the complaints they have received.
And yet, things may not be as bleak as they seem. So far, there has been a widespread belief that transitional justice only means prosecutions of perpetrators of human rights violations and distribution of compensation to victims. Because of this focus, adequate attention has not been given to the field of reparations. But things are changing. Members of the Conflict Victims’ Common Platform (CVCP) maintain that there are significant initiatives that the commissions can take even in the absence of amendments, and the TRC and CIEDP, it seems, have belatedly caught their drift.
The TRC is now in the final stages of conducting group consultations with victims of the conflict and human rights activists; they are gathering feedback for the formation of a reparation policy. Reparation is a crucial aspect of transitional justice and entails offering payment or other forms of compensation or restitution to redress gross and systematic violations of human rights law. Regrettably, as of now, victims have received no reparation other than cash support of Rs1 million. But things seem to be looking up. The TRC is preparing to make recommendations for reparation. Possible schemes will include issuing identity cards to conflict victims, short- and long-term livelihood programmes, rehabilitation of the displaced, employment for the victims, free education for the victims’ children, free health services, and skill and professional training, among others. Those war-era victims of abduction, maiming, torture, rape and sexual violence, seizure of property, and forced eviction and displacement are eligible for the reparation schemes.
This step by the TRC is positive, and there is no doubt that the TRC and CIEDP could earn the goodwill of the victims’ families if they follow through with the schemes. But such measures that go beyond a simple distribution of funds require constructive assistance from all parties. The government, in particular, must endeavour to lend support to the reparation policy. The government has lost the trust of the families of victims due to the rampant politicisation of the TJ process, and now it must make amends. At the same time, the state must also endeavour to push through the amendments to the TJ legislation. Legitimate demands for justice will never be swept under the rug.