Bandi rallying global support for transitional justice process, but victims unconvincedAs he pushes the agenda of legal amendments, stakeholders suspect he is complicit in Prime Minister Dahal’s bid to wrap up the process without punishing perpetrators.
While his appointment as the chief of the Nepali delegation to the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council continues to draw criticism at home, Govinda Sharma Bandi, prime minister’s adviser on peace and human rights, is busy rallying international support in Geneva for Nepal’s move to conclude the transitional justice process.
After addressing the council’s session on Tuesday, Bandi is busy holding bilateral meetings with UN officials and political delegations of various countries on the sidelines.
On Wednesday, he met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk. Bandi informed Turk about Nepal's ongoing efforts to amend the Enforced Disappeared Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Act. “The high commissioner assured his continued support towards the conclusion of the transitional justice process,” reads a statement from the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in Geneva.
The meeting was held in the presence of Ilze Brands Kehris, UN assistant secretary general on human rights, and Rory Mungoven, chief of the Asia-Pacific section at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Bandi also appreciated the OHCHR’s continued support to Nepal on the transitional justice process. He also met Australian Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts in Geneva on Wednesday.
“I am holding different sideline meetings to share Nepal’s efforts towards the conclusion of the transitional justice process and garner the support of the international community for our efforts,” Bandi told the Post over phone from Geneva. “My engagement will continue until my return on Saturday.”
The government is working on a new bill to amend the Act after a failed attempt last year. In his address to the council, Bandi said the government was preparing to register the amendment bill in Parliament soon. He also promised to move ahead taking the conflict victims and other stakeholders on board.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal assigned him to engage the rights community in Geneva so that the international community supports Nepal’s bid to amend the Act and recognises the transitional justice process. Bandi said he has apprised the delegates of Nepal's attempt to adopt a victim-centric approach to transitional justice without giving amnesty in the cases of serious human rights violations.
Human rights activists, however, say while it is Bandi’s responsibility to have bilateral engagement as per Dahal’s wish, the international community will not be convinced until Nepal amends the transitional justice law in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict and international practice and laws.
In its ruling in 2015, the Supreme Court has explicitly directed the government to amend the Act ensuring no amnesty in serious violations of human rights. Charan Prasai, a human rights activist, said Bandi’s credibility waned after he, as the minister for law and justice, presented an amendment to the transitional justice Act retaining the amnesty provisions.
“The international community is well aware that the government, where Bandi was a minister, wanted to amend the transitional justice Act with a mala fide intention to save perpetrators even in the cases of serious violations of human rights,” Prasai told the Post. “The only way to convince the international community is to have a proper law in place and appoint the chairperson and members to the transitional justice commissions transparently through a broader consultation.”
There is common perception among human rights activists and conflict victims that Bandi is working as a close confidant of Dahal, who wants to wrap up the transitional justice process without prosecution. They say they are losing trust in Bandi after he started working in favour of the parties unlike in the past when he was a true fighter for victims.
The erstwhile coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress and involving the CPN (Maoist Centre) appointed Bandi as law and justice minister although he was not a lawmaker. Janak Raut, a former general secretary of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, said the government should first convince the victims before seeking the support of the international community.
“Looking at the past, we are not convinced that this government will amend the Act as per the court order and international laws,” Raut told the Post. “While the consent of the international community too is necessary, it is the conflict victims who need to believe in the process the government is adopting, first.”