International community builds pressure on transitional justiceWeeks before the expiration of the mandates of the two transitional justice bodies, the international community working in Nepal, including the United Nations, has asked the government to clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019 and ensure broader consultation with the stakeholders.
Weeks before the expiration of the mandates of the two transitional justice bodies, the international community working in Nepal, including the United Nations, has asked the government to clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019 and ensure broader consultation with the stakeholders.
While welcoming the country’s efforts to bring the peace process to a conclusion by moving forward with a comprehensive and credible transitional justice process, nine foreign embassies, at the initiative of the UN, said in a press statement on Thursday that “without broad public trust in the process, Nepal will not be able to bring closure to the wounds and grievances that persist from the conflict era, nor be able to complete the peace process.”
More than twelve years have passed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, but victims of the decade-long bloody armed conflict are yet to get justice.
The international community’s call comes at a time when the terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) are drawing to a close. To extend their terms, the government has to amend the Transitional Justice Act.
A draft amendment bill prepared four years ago proposes amnesty to all those involved in gross human rights violations during the time of conflict, to which victims have taken serious exception. The international community’s call also comes at a time when victims have been complaining that their participation in the transitional justice process was being ignored. “… We encourage the government to engage in broad-based, meaningful consultation with conflict victims, civil society and wider
stakeholders that allows space and time to discuss and address issues raised before action is taken and helps shape a course of further action that reflects the will of the people,” read the press statement.
“Members of the international community are also united in the view that any solution should have the needs of victims at its heart. Only then can the peace process move forward on a strong foundation.”
The international community has also reminded the government about the upcoming fourth anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed certain requirements for transitional justice processes. In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down the amnesty provision and said the consent of the victims was necessary for any reconciliation besides clarifying that cases that are sub-judice at various courts cannot be transferred to the commissions.
Conflict victims and human rights activists for long have been demanding truth, justice, reparations and an end to the culture of impunity.
Bhagiram Chaudhary, chairman of the Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP), said on Thursday that Law Ministry authorities had invited him and Suman Adhikari, adviser of the platform, “to discuss the draft bill”. “But we did not go as we are for broader discussions with the stakeholders,” Chaudhary told the Post. Chaudhary also warned the government against moving ahead with the bill without incorporating their concerns. “Such provisions of immunity and no punishment to perpetrators of serious human rights violations, which is also against the Supreme Court verdict and international obligations, is not acceptable to conflict victims and the CVCP,” said Adhikari, the CVCP adviser. He said there is no clarity yet from the government on what will guide the transitional phase in the future after the terms of the two commissions will expire on February 10. “We have taken the international community’s call today positively, as we also have been calling for a timeline on how to take the process forward, with wider participation and broader discussions.”
Conflict victims say simply extending the terms of the commissions won’t be enough unless the laws are amended as per international standards and the Supreme Court’s verdict. Government authorities refused to comment on the draft bill, saying it needs to be revised after necessary consultations with the stakeholders, including the victims.
Ramesh Dhakal, a secretary at the legal section of the Prime Minister’s Office who also works as a secretary at the TRC, said the draft was prepared a year ago and has some preliminary proposals and that the government was holding consultations with the stakeholders and victims.
Lokendra Mallik, chairman of CIEDP, said the government has not made any correspondence [regarding the bill] with his commission lately.
The international community in its statement has expressed their commitment to work with the government of Nepal and all other stakeholders to advance a transitional justice process that engenders broad public confidence. “Supporting Nepal in establishing a credible transitional justice process and ensuring the stability and prosperity of Nepal remain priorities for the international community,” the statement, undersigned by Embassy of Australia, Embassy of Germany, Delegation of the European Union, Embassy of Finland, Embassy of France, Embassy of Norway, Embassy of Switzerland, Embassy of the United Kingdom, Embassy of the United States of America and United Nations in Nepal, says.
With the two transitional commissions largely failing to move the process forward, some conflict victims are also demanding a high-level mechanism including all the stakeholders—victims, political parties and security agencies.