Victims, rights activists criticise ruling party bid to form political mechanism to facilitate transitional justiceThe move is political, and goes against the principles of transitional justice and Nepal’s international commitments to uphold human rights, they say.
Victims of the armed conflict and human rights defenders have opposed the idea of forming a political mechanism to facilitate the conclusion of the transitional justice process, as proposed by the six-member task force formed to propose measures to end the months-long dispute within the ruling party.
The idea, first proposed by Nepal Communist Party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal during the Standing Committee meeting in December last year, will politicise the entire process if implemented, and work in favour of the perpetrators, they say.
“I am shocked to see the recommendations. They are against the principles of jurisprudence and transitional justice,” said Ram Bhandari, chairperson of Network of the Families of Disappeared referring to the recommendations made by the task force.
The document talks in detail about the transitional justice process should revolve around reconciliation and how a fast track approach can be adopted to conclude the entire process in a year by devising a favourable law. It talks about providing compensation to the victims and motivating them to reconcile with their perpetrators. “The local and provincial governments will be motivated to engage in reconciliation between the victims at the local level,” reads one of the points of the document.
However, it does not talk about prosecution—one of the most important pillars of the transitional justice process along with reparation, truth seeking and assurance of non-repetition of atrocities.
Conflict victims say the recommendations are the most regressive ones to be discussed since the transitional justice process began in 2015. They say they are particularly worried about amending the Truth and Reconciliation and the Enforced Disappeared Inquiry Act to induct favourable provisions to make it possible to conclude the process in a year.
“Concluding the transitional justice process has always been a major focus for the former Maoists. These provisions were incorporated into the draft submitted on Saturday as per their demands,” said a member of the task force on the condition of anonymity.
The taskforce led by party general secretary Bishnu Poudel consisted of representatives from factions led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. The proposal on transitional justice came from former Maoist leaders Janardan Sharma and Pambha Bhusal, both of whom are considered allies of Dahal.
Bhandari said that as Nepal Communist Party holds a comfortable majority in Parliament, it can easily amend the laws the way it wants to. The Nepali Congress won’t oppose the new law as most of the atrocities were committed while it was in power. “Every recommendation is targeted at favouring the perpetrators,” he said.
The task force has attacked the international community for raising the issue of transitional justice time and again. Its report says that some parties (agencies) are inappropriately harbouring unnecessary and undiplomatic concerns and making comments on the peace process.
The international community, the United Nations and other international human rights organisations have on different occasions raised concerns over delays in concluding the transitional justice process, even 14 years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the decade-long insurgency.
They have been urging the government to amend the existing laws related to transitional justice based on a 2015 Supreme Court’s verdict to comply with international principles and Nepal’s international obligations towards human rights. But, the document of the ruling party nowhere mentions that the court’s verdict should be respected while revising the law.
“Parties should stop politicising the transitional justice process. Forming a political mechanism would be an illegal move,” Kalyan Shrestha, a former chief justice at the Supreme Court whose bench directed the government to remove the amnesty provisions in the transitional justice Act, told the Post.
He said the political parties, who were the parties to the conflict, are in one place now treating the victims as the defeated force. Shrestha said that transitional justice has a universal jurisprudence and it must be abided by.
Experts who have closely followed the transitional justice process say the deal on transitional justice proposed by the task force is a result of a quid pro quo between the Oli and Dahal factions within the ruling party. The Oli faction might have agreed to conclude the process within a year to please the other faction, they say.
The Dahal-Nepal faction had been demanding that Oli step down from his position in the party as well as the government. The task force report, however, says Oli won’t have to resign from any of the positions. It proposes Dahal to take command of the party as its executive chair while Oli focuses on the government.
“The agreement is a result of quid pro quo within the ruling party to satisfy the interest of both factions,” Surya Kiran Gurung, former chairperson of the truth and reconciliation commission, told the Post. “However, concluding the process in a year doesn’t seem possible.” He said a year is not even enough to study over 63,000 cases registered with the truth and the disappearance commissions.
The leaders of the party, however, say concluding transitional justice in a year is possible if all parties stand together. Bhusal, a member of the task force, said they want to end the long wait for justice. “Many things that looked impossible have been turned into reality in the past and the transitional justice process is no exception,” she told the Post. She, however, refrained from commenting on the need to form a political mechanism.
Gurung, who also served as general secretary at the parliament secretariat, said the objective of forming the political mechanism is to politicise the process so that parties can dictate to the transitional justice commissions and grant amnesty even for perpetrators of heinous crimes. “The transitional justice process hasn’t been concluded because all parties to the war are making efforts to ensure they don't face prosecution. The recent agreement in the ruling party is an example of this,” he said.