Parties agree on transitional justice officials but recommendation committee disagreesPolitical consensus may be necessary but the committee's independence should not be undermined, taskforce members say.
On September 26, Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal said that chairpersons and members for the two transitional justice commissions “will be appointed in a few days”. At the same programme, organised by the National Human Rights Commission, Nepali Congress leader Minendra Rijal echoed Dahal, saying the two commissions will get leadership before Dashain and that consultation for an amendment to the Transitional Justice Act will begin after the festive holidays.
At the programme, Dahal, who led the decade-long ‘people’s war’, also said that he takes responsibility for “all the positive and negative implications of the insurgency” and that he is ready to face action for his mistakes.
The Dashain holidays are now over but there is still no sign of progress in the appointment of officials to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons.
The scheduled meeting of the recommendation committee, formed to select officials for the two commissions, was postponed until Dashain. There has been no update on when the committee will hold its meeting.
Officials familiar with the developments say that though the parties have agreed on 10 names for the commissions—two chairpersons and four members each—not all members of the recommendation committee are willing to accept the parties’ decision.
While the chairperson of the committee, former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra, hasn’t made his position clear, Prakash Osti, who represents the National Human Rights Commission in the committee, and Sharmila Karki, a committee member, are opposed to selecting officials for the commissions as recommended by the political parties.
Prem Bahadur Khadka, chairman of the Nepal Bar Association, and Ram Nath Mainali, a senior advocate, who represent the Nepali Congress and the Dahal camp respectively, however, are in favour of moving forward as per the decision of the parties.
The cross-party leadership wants to reinstate all five members of the disappearance commission led by Lokendra Mallick, but Osti and Karki are especially opposed to this decision.
“It is true that political consensus is necessary on the issue,” Karki, who represents the former CPN-UML camp in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, told the Post. “That, however, does not mean that the committee should follow what the parties say.”
Karki also questioned the rationale behind relieving all the officials from the commissions if they were to be reappointed.
Osti, the human rights commission member on the selection committee, also said that the committee, as an independent body, will not accept decisions taken at the behest of the parties.
Nepal’s transitional justice process has dragged on for more than a decade, largely due to a lack of political will. The government, though, has pledged at domestic and international forums that it is committed to concluding the transitional justice process, a key component of the peace process. But it has largely failed to take desired steps, much to the chagrin of the victims as well as the international community.
The international community has time and again called on the government to amend the transitional justice law in line with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, which struck down dozens of provisions that were aimed at granting amnesty and did not abide by international obligations.
Despite conflict victims demanding that the government proceed with appointing officials and amending the Act simultaneously, their calls have been lost in the din of political squabbling.
Of late, representatives of conflict victims’ groups have also warned against reappointing commission members, which has put the recommendation committee on the back foot.
“We will not accept commissions with the same old faces who did nothing during their four-year term,” Bhagi Ram Chaudhari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims’ Common Platform, told the Post.
Following widespread criticism over the failure of the two commissions to investigate the cases filed with them, the government had relieved the office-bearers of both the commissions through an amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014.
According to one transitional justice expert, who has close relations with the main opposition Nepali Congress and who has followed the entire process, there are not many takers when it comes to leading the disappearance commission. Mallick is a retired chief judge of the high court. Those who have shown interest in leading the disappearance commission, however, do not have Mallick’s stature, according to the expert. This has left the parties with no other option than to reinstate Mallick and his team to the disappearance commission.
“There are many candidates for the truth commission, but people are reluctant to take leadership of the disappearance commission,” the expert told the Post on condition of anonymity.
The main opposition was pushing Surya Dhungel, an advisor to former President Ram Baran Yadav, to lead the truth commission, but after the parties agreed on Raman Shrestha, a former attorney general, Dhungel was said to have been offered the disappearance commission. Dhungel, however, denied the position.
Though Shrestha has publicly refused to take up the job, sources say he wants Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli himself to offer him the position. People familiar with the developments say that it was Dahal, not Oli, who asked Shrestha to lead the truth commission.
Shrestha is reportedly unhappy with Oli for refusing him a ticket for the chairmanship of the Nepal Bar Association, for which elections were held in April. Senior advocate Chandeshwar Shrestha was instead given the ticket.