Law Ministry aims to get Transitional Justice Act amended from ongoing session of ParliamentForeign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, also the law minister now, who has made commitments from various platforms including the United Nations, is taking the lead for amendments.
After a months-long hiatus, the government has said it will start consultations with the concerned parties beginning January 13 for an amendment to the Transitional Justice Act, with an aim to conclude the transitional justice process, which has been dragging on for over a decade now.
The Ministry of Law and Justice will collect comments and feedback from all seven provinces and then launch a national level consultation before giving a final shape to the draft amendment bill on Enforced Disappearances Enquiry and Truth and Reconciliation Act-2014, according to officials.
“The modality for the consultation will be finalised based on the outcome of a meeting scheduled for Sunday,” Man Bahadur Aryal, joint-secretary at the Law Ministry, told the Post. “We expect the consultation process to begin from January 13.”
According to Aryal, the government is for endorsing the amendment from the ongoing winter session of federal parliament.
An amendment to the existing Act and a wider consultation is what conflict victims have been demanding for long. However, despite repeated promises, the government has failed to initiate the concrete process to amend the Act in line with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling and international obligation.
The Supreme Court in 2015 had struck down around a dozen of amnesty provisions in the Act and directed the government to revise it adhering to the principle of transitional justice and international practices.
Though the government in June 2018 had readied a draft, it was withdrawn following widespread criticism from conflict victims and rights groups.
Janak Raut, general secretary of Conflict Victims Common Platform, said consultations that the government wants to hold should not be just for the sake of doing, rather it should be meaningfully reflected when the Act is amended.
“It is good that the government has finally woken up,” said Raut. “We expect the consultation process to be a platform for listening to victims’ voices instead of a formality.”
Officials at the Ministry of Law and Justice said they are expecting the consultation process to move forward positively and in line with the conflict victims’ demand, as it is taking place at the initiative of Foreign Minister Gyawali.
Gyawali is currently looking after the law and justice portfolio after Upendra Yadav resigned on December 24.
The Law Ministry has called the representatives of the conflict victims and other concerned stakeholders on Sunday to decide the modality of the consultation process, said the officials.
Conflict victims, human rights defenders and the international human rights organisations have been repeatedly calling on the Nepal government to amend the existing Act before finalising the names for the two transitional justice commissions.
They say the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons cannot perform unless the Act is amended in line with the Supreme Court verdict.
“It is evident from the commissions’ performance in the past that they are ineffective without the necessary Act in place,” Gopal Shah, chairperson of the Conflict Victims National Network, told the Post.
The two commissions have been without officials since mid-April last year after chairpersons and members were relieved from the duties.
A recommendation committee led by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra formed in March last year is struggling to recommend the names to lead the commissions, largely due to political intervention, as both the ruling and opposition parties are trying to install their people in the commissions.
The victims say they are hopeful that Gyawali will work as per the commitment he has made from several platforms, including the United Nations.
In his address to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March, Gyawali claimed that the Nepal government was preparing to amend the Act in consultation with, and participation of, the conflict victims. He also tried to assure the international community that there would be no blanket amnesty in the grave cases of human rights violations made during the insurgency.
“There exists a requisite political will to conclude this last remaining task of the peace process,” Gyawali had told the council. “In doing so, we will be guided by the Comprehensive Peace Accord, directives of the Supreme Court, relevant international commitments, concerns of the victims and the ground realities.”
However, the government has taken no concrete measures to fulfil its commitment before the world, raising concerns about its commitment to delivering justice to conflict victims.
Around 66,000 complaints have been filed at the two commissions about crimes committed during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006.
Despite the Comprehensive Peace Accord envisioning a truth commission, it took years for the government to from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons.
Gyawali was a minister at the time of signing of the peace agreement, and he is known as one of the few leaders who are well versed in the peace process as well as the transitional justice process.
Raut said with the responsibility of the Law Ministry on Gyawali now, it is also an opportunity for him to prove that he walks the talk.
“Gyawali has good knowledge of the peace process,” said Raut. “We are hopeful that he won’t let us down.”