International community expresses concern over transitional justice processDiplomats during their meetings urge Deuba and Dahal to address victims’ grievances, as the government prepares to table the amendment bill in Parliament.
Just as the government is preparing to table the bill to amend the Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappeared, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014, a section of Kathmandu-based diplomats has expressed concerns over some of the provisions during their meetings with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
After calling on Deuba on Friday, members of the diplomatic community jointly met with Dahal on Saturday and are scheduled to meet CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli soon, according to diplomatic sources.
The UN’s Resident Coordinator in Nepal, Richard Howard, and ambassadors of the United States of America, the European Union, Germany, Australia and Switzerland held discussions with the leaders as regards Nepal’s plan to amend the transitional justice law, according to the Dahal’s private secretariat.
Some of the provisions of the amendment bill have attracted criticism from victims, rights activists and civil society members who say the amendment is designed with an aim to exonerate the perpetrators of serious human rights violations during the 1996-2006 armed conflict.
According to those familiar with the meetings, the diplomats expressed concerns over some of the provisions and urged both Deuba and Dahal that some qualifiers and more explanations are needed for cases of serious human rights violations.
According to Khimlal Devkota, a Maoist leader, as the diplomats hailed the nationally driven peace process, they also put forth concerns over some of the issues including a lack of clarification on serious human rights violations and called for meeting international standards while concluding the transitional justice process.
An aide to Prime Minister Deuba said that the diplomats were of the view that no exemption should be given to the persons involved in serious violations of human rights and if any victim is not satisfied with the process of prosecution initiated by the Special Court, the victim should be permitted to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The amended bill has provisions that the transitional justice commissions will make recommendations to the Attorney General’s Office to start prosecution of cases of serious human rights violations. A Special Court composed of three judges from high courts will take decisions in cases of serious human rights violations filed by the Attorney General’s Office within six months of the recommendation from the two commissions.
Criminal cases from the decade-long insurgency that are sub judice at the district and high courts will be transferred to the Special Court.
Any decision from the Special Court will be final with no provision for an appeal to the Supreme Court, as per the amendment bill. Victims and human rights organisations have expressed their reservations about the list of non-amnestiable crimes in the bill.
The bill says “cruel murder” or murder after torture, rape, enforced disappearances and inhumane or cruel torture committed against unarmed or ordinary people during the insurgency are serious human rights violations and are non-amnestiable. It, however, doesn’t list war crimes and crimes against humanity under serious human rights violations.
The bill has opened the door for amnesty for murder by saying only “cruel murder” will be non-amnestiable, thus providing a loophole to define all murders as non-cruel and grant amnesty, according to the victims.
Conflict victims and human rights defenders have long been demanding that the act be amended in line with the 2015 Supreme Court verdict and international standards.
Nepal’s transitional justice process has been extremely slow as there has been a lack of political will to conclude it while victims have been awaiting justice for 16 years since the end of the armed conflict in 2006.
The international community, including the United Nations, as well as human rights organisations have constantly pressed Nepal to complete the process and ensure justice to the victims.
As many as 13,000 people died, thousands were displaced and many were forcefully disappeared during the conflict.
After Sher Bahadur Deuba became the prime minister and the subsequent appointment of Govinda Sharma Bandi as law minister, the process to amend the act started.
According to Devkota, the diplomats were of the view that the 2015 Supreme Court verdict should be respected and honoured.
The Foreign Ministry, however, expressed its ignorance about the diplomats’ meetings with Deuba and Dahal.
A senior Foreign Ministry official told the Post that the ministry was not aware of both the meetings so they have nothing to share with the media.
Sewa Lamsal, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that the government through different channels has communicated to the international community that it is tabling an amendment bill on the transitional justice Act in the House after wider consultations.
“We have apprised all concerned stakeholders of the consultations that were held before preparing the amendment bill and that the consultation process was wide and concerns of all sides were taken into consideration,” said Lamsal. “This development has been communicated by the highest political level to the diplomatic community.”
After Bandi became the law minister, he held consultations in all seven provinces and in Kathmandu at the national level in order to win the trust of all sections before registering the new bill in Parliament.
But victims staged protests in Kathmandu expressing concerns that the new amendment is targeted at protecting the perpetrators and granting them amnesty even in the cases of serious human rights violations.
The diplomats’ meetings with Nepal’s political leadership come just ahead of the government plan to present the amendment bill in Parliament.
The government is all set to present the new amendment bill in Parliament on Sunday, according to the Law Ministry.
On the diplomats’ meetings with the top Nepali leadership, the US Embassy in Kathmandu said on Saturday in an email response to the Post that “as members of the international community in Nepal, we support a Nepali-led transitional justice process that is transparent, aligns with international law, and earns the public trust to achieve credible justice.”
“We are encouraged by recent developments made by the Government of Nepal and look forward to the end of the long wait for justice for the victims of Nepal’s conflict era through a process that respects human rights, the rule of law, and facilitates the country’s full transition to lasting peace,” the embassy added.
The diplomatic community in Kathmandu has always kept a close eye on Nepal’s transitional justice process and nudged the government on several occasions to ensure justice to the victims by following international standards.
According to Devkota, the visiting ambassadors told Dahal that grievances of the victims should be listed and addressed accordingly.
“On the issue of qualifying and clarifying the cases of serious human rights violations, we told them that the working procedure of the Act will provide further clarification. They expressed their solidarity with the ongoing truth and reconciliation process and their desire to support the nationally driven peace process,” said Devkota.
According to a statement issued by Dahal’s secretariat, the visiting delegation of international organisations expressed their concern about the cases of serious violations of human rights and the rights of victims to appeal for justice as they called Nepal’s peace process ‘unique’ in nature.
“Dahal expressed his gratitude to the visiting ambassadors for their collective concerns and best wishes for the near-ending peace process,” the statement read.
“The chairman told the visiting delegation that serious discussions have taken place at the political level about the sensitivity of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the transitional justice process, Supreme Court’s verdict, voices of the victims and concerns expressed by the international community,” the statement added. “We are hoping to take forward—and give a logical conclusion to—this process by addressing all the concerns and grievances.”