Dahal’s proposal to set up mechanism for transitional justice raises alarmConflict victims and human rights defenders say it is wrong to have a political body that influences the commissions.
Amid confusion over how the transitional justice process moves ahead, Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proposed setting up a political mechanism—a body with leaders from the ruling and opposition parties—to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons.
In his political paper presented for discussion at the Nepal Communist Party’s Standing Committee meeting, Dahal, who is also the executive chairman of the NCP, has argued that forming the body is necessary for concluding the process that has dragged on for over a decade.
“In order to strengthen political stability, special attention should be paid towards concluding the remaining works of the peace process,” reads the second point of the paper. “It is necessary to decide on forming a suitable political mechanism to support the commissions.”
The party could move towards forming the mechanism if Dahal’s proposal passes the Standing Committee, according to ruling party leaders. The idea about forming a credible high-level mechanism, represented by all concerned parties of the peace process, was floated by the Conflict Victims Common Platform in November last year. The platform, one of the two umbrella bodies of organisations advocating justice for conflict victims, has said the new body would help forge consensus in finding ways to conclude the process in a credible manner.
Suman Adhikari, former chairman of the platform, told the Post that they didn’t propose the mechanism that would intervene in the work of the commissions. “We want a mechanism that decides the course of the transitional justice process before the commissions get their leadership,” he said. “We stand against any mechanism that dictates the commissions’ work.”
Conflict victims say it would be unfortunate if the parties form the political mechanism that directs the functioning of two commissions. Ram Bhandari, an adviser to Conflict Victims National Network, another umbrella body of the victims’ organisations, said the hidden interest in the political mechanism is to drive the transitional justice process the way the parties want.
“This is unacceptable. There will be no credibility of the transitional justice process that works under political influence,” he told the Post. Bhandari said Dahal incorporated the proposal in his political paper only after an agreement with the Nepali Congress.
The leaders of the main opposition agree that they had discussed forming the mechanism but no decision to this effect had been made. Ramesh Lekhak, who has been assigned to look after the transitional justice process from the Nepali Congress, said the mechanism could be formed once the commissions get their new leadership and the Enforced Disappearance Enquiry and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014 is amended.
“We can think about such mechanisms if the commissions cannot function. However, it is early to comment on this,” he told the Post. He said political parties have agreed to proceed with the appointments to the two commissions, together with an amendment to the Act. Lekhak said they have finalised six areas to collect feedback from the concerned parties before drafting the legal amendments.
The two commissions have been without their chiefs since April 14, after the government relieved chairpersons and the members of their duties by revising the transitional justice law.
Human rights defenders say since transitional justice is not solely a judicial process, it cannot move forward without political consensus. They say the mechanism can be formed if it facilitates the works of the commissions, but that shouldn’t encroach upon their jurisdictions.
“Every attempt to influence the works of the commissions, be it by forming the mechanisms or without them, is unacceptable,” Gauri Pradhan, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission, told the Post. “I believe the parties won’t take any steps that put the credibility of the entire process at stake.”