Minister Gyawali yet again says amendment to transitional justice law soonConflict victims and experts doubt the amendment will be presented before Parliament anytime soon and it will do away with provisions of amnesty for perpetrators of rights abuse.
The government is giving final touches to the bill to amend the Enforced Disappearances, Truth and Reconciliation Act-2014 to be presented in the winter session of Parliament, announced Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali at an interaction in the Capital on Sunday.
The amendment is being drafted by complying with the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Supreme Court’s ruling, Nepal’s international commitments, concerns of the conflict victims and the ground reality of the country, Gyawali said.
“The transitional justice process prioritises reconciliation, but with consent from the victims,” he said. “Also, there will be no amnesty in cases involving human rights violations.”
Victims of the decade-long conflict have welcomed Gyawali’s statement, but they were not convinced that the law would be amended by complying with the international principles on transitional justice. They said Gyawali has made several commitments in front of various national and international forums in the past as well. However, those commitments haven’t translated into actions.
In March 2019 addressing the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Gyawali said the government was preparing to amend the laws in consultation with, and participation of, the victims.
“There exists a requisite political will to conclude this last remaining task of the peace process,” he had said. “In doing so, we will be guided by the Comprehensive Peace Accord, directive of the Supreme Court, relevant international commitments, concerns of the victims and the ground realities.” He made similar commitments before the council’s meeting in February this year and claimed Nepal presents a uniquely successful case of a nationally-led and owned conflict transformation and peace process.
However, commitments made in front of international forums haven’t been fulfilled. “Going by the government’s track record, I doubt the government will fulfill Gyawali’s commitment,” said Maina Karki, chairperson of Conflict Victim’s Common Platform. “There are just a few weeks left for the winter session of Parliament. If the government actually is preparing to table the amendment bill as demanded by the victims, there should have been some consultation by now.”
Though the government is not willing to resume the House session anytime soon, it is bound by the constitution to convene the winter Session latest by January 1. The Ministry of Law and Justice, which is the concerned ministry for the drafting of the amendment bill, is also unaware about the amendment bill.
“I have no idea about it,” Rishi Rajbhandari, secretary at the Ministry of Law and Justice told the Post. “I should have known if the ministry had prepared such a bill.” He also said he was also unaware about the basis of Gyawali’s claim.
After Samajbadi Janata Party chair Upendra Yadav resigned as deputy prime minister and law minister in December last year, it was Gyawali who took the charge of the ministry. He assured the victims that the law would be amended after consulting them. The consultations were held on January 13 simultaneously in seven provinces. The consultations were carried out just to show to the international community that the government was serious about the issue.
The amendment bill, however, was never tabled in Parliament. “We are fed up with hollow commitments. The leaders shouldn’t make commitments if they don’t have ability to implement them,” Suman Adhikari, whose father Muktinath was killed by then Maoists in January 2002.
It’s not just Gyawali who has assured the conflict victims that justice will be delivered after an amendment to the Act. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September also claimed the government was committed to concluding the transitional justice process without delay. He had made similar commitments in last year as well.
Similarly, during an interaction programme organised on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Accord last year, Nepal Communist Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had said he was ready to take his parts for the war and was committed to providing justice to the victims without further delay. “We have been hearing similar commitments for years from the Nepali Congress leaders as well, but all such commitments turned out to be mere rhetoric,” said Adhikari.
The Supreme Court in February 2015 had directed the government to revise the amnesty provisions in the Act ensuring that serious perpetrators of serious human rights violations will be prosecuted. Nepali Congress was leading the government then and four governments have been formed after that. However, no government has prepared the amendment bill.
“There’s no ground to believe that this government will amend the bill and present it before Parliament in the winter session,” Charan Prasain, chairperson of Accountability Watch Committee, a loose network of the human rights activists, told the Post. “If it is really concerned towards the plight of the victims, it should immediately start consultations with the victims and the concerned parties to revise the Act.”