A new approachNow that the commissions are seeking to refresh their membership, the government must learn from the mistakes of the past. To ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict, the commitment has to come from the government.
Last week, the government had decided to replace the current officials at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) with new faces following the demands of the conflict victims and human rights defenders. It also formed a recommendation committee to nominate candidates for membership into the two transitional justice bodies that will fall vacant beginning April 14. But conflict victims, who have for long complained that they have been neglected, have warned that they will not accept the transitional justice process if the new leadership in the two commissions is selected without proper consultation.
This is a legitimate concern. Ensuring the centrality of victims is fully respected is the first step towards reconciliation and closure. These commissions are supposed to provide an important roadmap for change, but we have wasted more than a decade since the end of the conflict with little progress. If the leaders involved are serious about working towards a new beginning where the horrors of the past do not haunt us, the government must realise that forming commissions cannot be a top-down approach.
For the first two years since their formation, the two transitional justice bodies didn’t do anything but solicit complaints from conflict victims. Consequently, the government extended the terms of the two commissions in February 2018. And now, three-and-a-half years since its formation, out of the around 63,000 complaints it has received, the TRC has only completed preliminary investigations into 4,000 cases.
Similarly, the CIEDP has conducted primary investigations into 2,200 cases out of 3,000 complaints registered with it. For over a decade, the transitional justice institutions have summarily been misused by the political elite, where the interests of the alleged perpetrators and beneficiaries of the armed conflict are usually protected. In his speech to the international community last year, Prime Minister KP Oli categorically stated that the transitional justice process in Nepal would not include any amnesties for serious human rights violations. His words, however, have rung hollow in the absence of robust implementation.
Now that the commissions are seeking to refresh their membership, the government must learn from the mistakes of the past. To ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict, the commitment has to come from the government. While the government has made a few amendments on the legislative front, the process of transitional justice must be more inclusive. This time around, it should leave no stone unturned to ensure the process entails wider deliberation and consultation, especially with the victims.