Government’s talk of expediting transitional justice process fails to convince conflict victimsConflict victims doubt the Deuba government is committed to amending the transitional justice laws as per the 2015 Supreme Court ruling.
Concluding the remaining task of the peace process by expediting the transitional justice process is one of the major points in the common minimum programme prepared by a task force of the ruling alliance.
The task force led by Nepali Congress General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka and with two members each from the Congress, CPN (Maoist Centre) and Janata Samajbadi Party was formed on July 20. Its mandate was to figure out the priorities of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government.
Conclusion of the transitional justice process is one of 11 priorities set by the task force.
“We have unanimously recommended that the government revise the existing transitional justice Act without delay and provide resources to the two commissions,” one of the members of the task force told the Post on condition of anonymity. “We believe that significant progress could be seen in the transitional justice process within the tenure of the incumbent government.”
The government, led by Prime Minister Deuba, has around a year and half before the general elections are held.
The conflict victims have cautiously welcomed the recommendation made by the task force on the issue of transitional justice.
Amending the existing laws related to transitional justice in line with the 2015 Supreme Court’s ruling has long been a demand of conflict victims. But the demand has not yet been addressed.
The Supreme Court in February 2015 had directed the government to revise the amnesty provisions in the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014 in compliance with international principles and Nepal’s international obligations towards human rights.
The court had issued the ruling when Nepali Congress was in the governing seat, led by Sushil Koirala. Successive governments that followed—the country has undergone five government changes after Koirala—have disregarded the Supreme Court’s ruling.
This is the second time Deuba has become prime minister since the 2015 court ruling, and some conflict victims say they have little hope that the current government will amend the transitional justice laws.
Maina Karki, chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, said as the Congress and the Maoist Centre, which formed coalition governments in 2016 and 2017, did nothing despite tall claims, she isn’t optimistic about the recommendation made by the task force.
“Most cases of war atrocities happened under the Deuba government while Pushpa Kamal Dahal was spearheading the insurgency as the Maoist party supremo,” Karki told the Post. “We would be grateful if the government works to provide justice. However, we aren’t hopeful.”
Conflict victims say the move of the Deuba government to extend the term of two commissions—Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of the Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons—without any consultations with them is an indication that it plans to handle the transitional justice process according to its convenience.
“We want new teams in both the commissions selected transparently,” Gopal Shah, chair of Conflict Victims National Network, told the Post. “If the government is sincere, it should carry out broad consultations with the victims before revising the Act and replacing the existing leadership of the two commissions.”
Integration of the Maoist combatants in the security forces and rehabilitation of those who aren’t integrated; socio-political transformation of the country and justice for the victims of the human rights violations were the three broad goals envisioned by the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006 which brought then CPN (Maoist) to mainstream politics.
Though the first two goals have largely been fulfilled, justice continues to elude thousands of war victims even 15 years after the peace deal was signed.
Since the peace deal, every government has announced to expedite the transitional justice process, only to let the conflict victims down.
In August last year, a six-member task force of then Nepal Communist Party (NCP) had said the transitional justice process would conclude within a year by revising the Act without delay. But the KP Sharma Oli government was ousted before the Act could be amended as per the 2015 Supreme Court ruling.
Nepal’s delayed transitional justice process has also drawn concerns of human rights organisations and the international community. They have time and again asked Nepal to conclude the transitional justice process and deliver justice to the families affected by the conflict.
Ever since their formation, the two transitional justice commissions have not done anything significant when it comes to the investigation of conflict-era cases.
The truth commission has so far received 63,718 complaints while it hardly completed preliminary investigations of around 3,800 complaints.
Similarly, the disappearance commission has recorded 3,223 complaints of enforced disappearance. Of these complaints, the commission has decided to look into only 2,506 cases, citing that the rest didn’t fall under its jurisdiction.
The government on July 15 extended the tenure of two commissions by a year.
Officials at the commissions say the transitional justice process will gain momentum once the transitional justice Act is revised.
“We have been told that the Act will be revised from the ongoing Parliament session,” Gangadhar Adhikari, spokesperson at the disappearance commission, told the Post. “The revision is a key to expedite the process towards delivering justice to the victims.”