Draft amendment to transitional justice Act ready, Nembang saysLaw ministry, conflict victims say they don’t have any information on it.
A bill to amend the controversial Enforced Disappeared Enquiry and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014 is ready to be tabled in Parliament, according to a ruling party leader involved in the drafting.
Officials at the Ministry of Law, the line ministry responsible for tabling the bill before the Cabinet and then Parliament, however, expressed ignorance about the development.
“The bill has been drafted taking into consideration the spirit of the relevant Supreme Court ruling, international practices and feedback from conflict victims,” said Subash Nembang, deputy parliamentary party leader of the Nepal Communist Party. “The amendment bill is now ready. It shouldn’t take more than a week for it to be tabled in Parliament,” said Nembang, who leads the drafting team.
But when the Post asked the law ministry about the draft, a top official said he didn’t know about it. “I have no information about it,” Man Bahadur Aryal, a joint secretary at the ministry, told the Post.
That the bureaucrats in the line ministry were not involved in drafting the amendment has once again stoked concerns that political parties, or a handful of leaders, drafted the amendment bill behind closed doors without consulting the conflict victims, members of the civil society and rights defenders.
According to Nembang, the bill was drafted with consent from top leader cross-party top leadership Nepal Communist Party Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
The contents of the new draft bill were not immediately known.
But an earlier version of the draft bill said that there would be no amnesty for extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearance, rape and torture. It, however, proposed a huge reduction in penalty imposed on perpetrators. Similarly, perpetrators, who cooperate in the investigation process, can carry out some community service, instead of going to jail, for the crime they committed.
The draft was later withdrawn after the victims and human rights defenders objected to the provisions.
After widespread criticism that the government was avoiding consultations with the concerned parties, the government in mid-January consulted the victims by organising programmes at the provincial level.
However, the victims termed the entire process a sham as they were not given ample time and space to have their say. The Ministry of Law had announced that it would hold meetings with the concerned parties in Kathmandu as well, but it was never organised.
Legal experts involved in preparing the preliminary draft said the new bill prepared by Nembang’s team is largely based on the “zero draft” that was made public by the government in June 2018. The bill waters down provisions on punishments, according to them.
“The new bill also proposes reduced punishment,” said Dinmani Pokharel, a human rights lawyer involved in the drafting process. “However, the penalty provisions are sterner than the last time.”
Conflict victims and national and international rights bodies have for long been demanding that the law be amended in line with the February 2015 Supreme Court verdict, which scrapped a dozen provisions in the law, including amnesty for perpetrators of grave crimes.
Despite repeated promises, Nepal’s transitional justice process has been lingering for over a decade. Conflict victims and rights activists have accused the political leadership of being reluctant to conclude the peace process.
Victims’ organisations say the government and the parties have cheated them by not holding meaningful consultations with them.
“The government has kept us in the dark,” Bhagiram Chaudhari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, told the Post. He said they expect that the draft bill adheres to the Supreme Court ruling and international practices. “If the law doesn’t address the right to the judicial and reparative justice of the victims, we will not accept it,” he said.
Conflict victims have also refused to cooperate with the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying officials were handpicked by political leaders without consulting them.
The draft amendment bill needs to be endorsed by the Cabinet before it is tabled in Parliament.