“Nepal made no real progress on question of justice of conflict-era victims”

International human rights bodies

KATHMANDU, Nov 26: The international human rights bodies, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and TRIAL International have said that Nepal has made no real progress on the question of justice, truth and reparations of conflict-era victims.

Although Nepal has set up Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons address the issues of conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective, the HRW said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

The human rights organizations have also criticized the government’s move to recommend candidates to commissions without making necessary amendments to the legal framework that governs the transitional justice process and ensuring its compliance with Nepal’s international human rights law obligations, as directed by Nepal’s Supreme Court and demanded by civil society and victims.

A five-member recommendation committee, after agreement with the top political parties, on Nov 18 recommended 61 candidates to the commissions which included repetition of a number old faces. But the selection has been objected by the conflict victims saying political interference which will not be impartial and independent.

“Last week marked the 13th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the conflict in Nepal. It is astonishing that so little progress has been made in responding to the clearly articulated concerns and demands of conflict victims,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“These demands have included a transparent and consultative process for the appointment of commissioners, and a genuine good-faith effort by political leaders and lawmakers to address serious weaknesses in the existing legal framework.”

“It is deeply disappointing that the government has repeatedly attempted to appoint the commissioners without adequate consultation and transparency. The commissions will not gain the trust of the victims and the international community if the political parties continue to interfere in the appointment process,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“The government’s move has not only undermined victims’ role in the transitional justice process but has also once again brought into question its commitment to uphold its international law obligations and ensuring justice for conflict-era crimes,” said Tomás Ananía, TRIAL International’s Nepal Program Manager.

All four human rights bodies have repeatedly expressed concern that effective transitional justice mechanisms require strong legal foundations consistent with international law and good practices, and the political will to address the concerns of victims of the conflict.

They have also reiterated their calls to amend the 2014 Transitional Justice Act to make it consistent with the Supreme Court’s rulings and international human rights standards, as well as for the initiation of a genuine consultative and transparent process for the appointment of commissioners.

A Seven-party alliance and the then CPN (Maoist) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on Nov 21, 2006 calling for a transitional justice process to address the human rights violations committed during the conflict–which ended a decade long armed conflict in which some 13,000 people were killed, including the widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and other gross human rights violations and abuses.

The government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons in February 2015, but both have failed to address the many thousands of complaints brought to them by victims and their families, and have yet to publicize their findings.

In 2015, the Supreme Court had ruled that the 2014 Act creating the legal framework for the Commissions was unconstitutional, due in part to the inclusion of provisions that could be used to grant amnesty to those respected of having criminal responsibility.

In February 2019, the tenure of the commissions was extended to 2020, though the terms of the commissioners were left to expire on April 13, 2019.