Lawmakers against passing transitional justice bill as it isRuling Congress is divided with a section seeking revision even as the chief whip says it should be passed urgently.
Lawmakers including those from the ruling parties have demanded a revision of the bill to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, arguing that several of its provisions aim to protect perpetrators.
Taking part in deliberations in the House of Representatives on Sunday, they argued that the bill was brought to conclude the transitional justice process without ensuring justice to the victims.
“Conflict victims, human rights activists and human rights organisations have objected to the bill. The transitional justice process cannot end so long as there is discontent among stakeholders,” said CPN-UML lawmaker Raghuji Pant. “The government must look for a long-term solution. That is not possible with the current bill.”
Acting on behalf of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who currently heads the law ministry, among others, Minister for Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma proposed the bill for the House’s consideration, opening the door for discussion. With the proposal endorsed by a majority, lawmakers have 72 hours to register amendments to the bill, if any.
“The government must hold consultations with the victims before tabling the bill for endorsement,” said Maina Karki, a lawmaker from the ruling Nepali Congress. “We should register an amendment to revise problematic provisions of the bill. There are problems right from the definition of crimes.”
The bill doesn’t list murder as a serious violation of human rights, therefore, qualifies the crime for amnesty. Karki, whose husband was killed by the then Maoist rebels, said the bill should not be endorsed until the victims are convinced.
Seniors from her party, however, defended the bill, claiming it includes the entire legal framework to conclude the transitional justice process. Truth revelation, justice, reparation and assurance for non-repetition are the four pillars of the transitional justice process and the bill rightly addresses them, said Ramesh Lekhak, the Congress chief whip.
“As transitional justice is a common issue of the state, all parties must come together to address it,” Lekhak said. “The transitional justice process needs to be completed at the earliest through the bill’s endorsement.”
The peace process began around 17 years ago with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the then revolutionary CPN-Maoist, but the transitional justice process, an important part of the peace process, remains incomplete.
Taking part in the deliberations, Rastriya Prajatantra Party lawmaker Gyan Bahadur Shahi said the Supreme Court’s rulings in the past have ruled out amnesty in serious criminal offences. “The bill, against the Supreme Court verdict, envisions amnesty in serious crimes like murder. It is unacceptable,” he said.
Issuing a joint statement on Friday, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said the bill, if adopted in its existing form, will not adequately provide for an effective prosecution of serious crimes under international law. They also questioned the reluctance of the government to properly consult the victims about the content of the draft legislation, arguing that the current approach seriously undermines its credibility.
After the three-day amendment registration deadline, the ruling parties want the bill to be endorsed by the full House without sending it to the House committee. The opposition parties, however, want a House committee to discuss it. They are for holding consultations with stakeholders before finalising the bill.
“The ruling parties want to fast-track the bill’s endorsement. However, we want detailed discussions because it is a very sensitive matter,” said Mahesh Bartaula, the UML whip.