Conflict victims say their hope on Pradeep Gyawali might have been misplacedGyawali, who had appeared sympathetic to the cause of conflict victims, is also moving ahead on transitional justice without taking victims into confidence.
When Pradeep Gyawali took charge of the Law Ministry after the resignation of Upendra Yadav in December, victims of the decade-long Maoist insurgency had some hope. After all, Gyawali had played a crucial role during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006 and had appeared sympathetic to their cause.
However, if recent developments are anything to go by, victims could end up disappointed once again.
In an interaction with Gyawali on Sunday and Monday, victims’ representatives had asked that thorough discussions be held with victims across the country before taking the legal amendment process forward. They had asked that separate discussions be held based on the nature of the victims’ complaints.
The Law Ministry, however, has scheduled interactions in all provincial headquarters for a single day, on January 13, with inputs from all the concerned parties, including victims, human rights activists, civil society members and local leaders.
“It is clear the consultation is nothing but a formality to show the world that the government talked to concerned parties before the amendment,” Bhagiram Chaudhari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims’ Common Platform, told the Post. He said that victims have lost all hope that the incumbent government and the political parties will ensure that the transitional justice process is victim-friendly.
Chaudhari further expressed concern that the transitional justice process was becoming increasingly opaque. There is less than a week remaining for the consultation but the ministry has yet to make public the questionnaire that will be given to concerned stakeholders for discussion.
Victims have asked that the government amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Act-2014, as directed by the Supreme Court, before making any appointments to the two transtional justice commissions.
According to Chaudhari, despite their repeated demands that appointments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Disappearance Commission be made independently and without political interference, the parties consistently attempted to pick people of their choice in the commissions. The two transitional justice bodies have remained vacant since mid-April.
The top and second-rung leaderships of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the Nepali Congress held a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss names for the two commissions.
“The parties are holding regular discussions to build a common position for the entire transitional justice process,” a leader close to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told the Post on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media.
The ruling party leader said that Oli has given a free hand to Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba on the amendment process and to decide the names for the two commissions.
A recommendation committee formed to select names for the two commissions is beholden to the parties, said victims. Even officials at the Law Ministry say that the recommendation committee is waiting for consensus among the parties on the chairpersons and commission member candidates.
Gyawali might want to conclude the transtional justice process by taking victims into confidence but he is not in a position to convince the top leadership, said the ruling party leader.
Gyawali, who is also the foreign minister, is responsible for defending the country’s transitional justice process at international forums. 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 transitional justice Act in consultation with, and participation of, conflict victims. He also assured the international community that there would be no blanket amnesty in grave cases of human rights violations committed during the insurgency.
Later this year, the Nepal government will have to present its progress on transitional justice during the Universal Periodic Review on human rights conducted in November by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ram Bhandari, an advisor to the Conflict Victims’ National Network, said that the government does not appear serious at all about delivering justice to victims.
“I don’t see a long-term vision in the government to conclude the transtional justice process,” he told the Post.