Supreme Court thwarts attempt to retain amnesty provisions in transitional justice lawThe government now has no option but to amend the law to adhere to the courty’s February 2015 landmark order.
The Supreme Court has rejected the government’s petition to review its landmark 2015 ruling that barred authorities from granting amnesty to convicts in cases of serious human rights violations.
Following the verdict on the review petition, the government has no option but to revise transitional justice laws to scrap amnesty-related provisions.
“The Supreme Court ruling clearly states that while revealing the truth, reparation and reconciliations are important aspects of transitional justice,” Gauri Pradhan, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission, told the Post. “Prosecution is necessary for serious cases of human rights violations.”
The government had moved the apex court after a five-member special bench led by then chief justice Kalyan Shrestha in February 2015, issued a landmark ruling order to the government to revise the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014.
The court had ruled that the law failed to adhere to the principles of transitional justice and related international practices. The bench struck down almost a dozen of provisions in the law and directed the government to ensure amnesty isn’t granted in cases of serious human rights violations committed during the decade-long insurgency.
In April the same year the government led by Sushil Koirala had filed a review petition, challenging the ruling.
The court, after postponing hearing on the review petition 25 times, on Sunday finally scrapped it. A special bench comprising Justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Meera Khadka, Biswombhar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwor Khatiwada and Anand Mohan Bhattarai concluded that the February 2015 orders were based on the principle of transitional justice.
The existing law gives the transitional justice commissions room for amnesty even in serious cases of human rights violations. The 2015 verdict says convicts in cases related to rape, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and torture cannot be granted amnesty.
Human rights defenders say that since the 2015 verdict was issued after a rigorous study of international practices and the principle of transitional justice, it was unlikely that the court would revise its stance.
“There wasn’t any ground for the Shrestha-led full bench’s decision to be reviewed,” Govind Bandi, a human rights defender, told the Post. “Sunday's decision is a clear message to the government that it has no option but to amend the amnesty provisions in the law.”
The verdict had also asked the government to amend the Act by revising the amnesty provision. However, five years since the ruling, successive governments are yet to follow the order.
Victims of the decade-long conflict welcomed Sunday's decision of the apex court and asked the government to amend the Act at the earliest. “Now the government doesn’t have any excuse left to delay the amendment,” the Conflict Victims Common Platform said in a statement. “We demand an immediate amendment in the Act and the transitional justice process expedited accordingly.”
The government in 2018 had prepared an amendment draft for the Act, but it was withdrawn following a controversy. Along with the conflict victims and human rights activists, various international human rights organisations have also been asking the government to revise the Act based on the international principle of transitional justice and the apex court’s verdict.
The Commission for Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed based on Act have done nothing except collect complaints from victims. Commissioners have been blaming faulty provisions in the Act for the delay in the investigating around 66,000 complaints they received.