With just over a month remaining for the expiry of the tenure of two transitional justice mechanisms, the government is still undecided on extending their tenure, especially after conflict victims, adopting a charter, demanded restructuring of the mechanisms and formation of a high-level mechanism to oversee the transitional justice process.
The government has to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 to extend the tenure or to restructure these two mechanisms —Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons.
The government had come up with a draft act in June last year and even sought feedback from the stakeholders concerned; however, the act amendment process got stuck after the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal publicly disowned the draft at an event.
Further delaying the process was the victims’ demand for restructuring the commissions and formation of a high-level mechanism with representations from victims and all other stakeholders concerned.
This also sharply divided the victims and rights activists, with a section advocating formation of a high-level mechanism, and the other labelling the move a ploy to protect perpetrators of conflict-era rights violation.
The government has been maintaining that amendment will be done on the basis of six factors — the Comprehensive Peace Accord; Nepal’s national and international obligations related to human rights; fundamental principles of transitional justice; decisions and orders of the Supreme Court; sentiments of conflict victims; and Nepal’s legal and political processes.
However, the most contentious issue, among others, in the act amendment process has been whether to extend the tenure of the commissions or to restructure them. The government is of the view that the act should be unanimously passed through the Parliament on the basis of consensus.
Minister Dhakal has held a series of meetings with Nepali Congress leader Ramesh Lekhak and Nepal Communist Party leader Barsha Man Pun to reach political consensus on the issue. However, a conclusion is yet to be drawn.
Dhakal said they were doing necessary homework to ensure that the new act was acceptable to all stakeholders, especially the victims. “We are aware that we have just a month to amend the act and are doing internal homework,” Dhakal told The Himalayan Times. “For now, the act is in place and the commissions are functional.”
Suman Adhikari, former chairman of Conflict Victims Common Platform that demanded restructuring of the commissions, also said that after presenting their views to the government they were waiting for the government to act. “We do not know why the government is sitting quiet,” he said. “The government should be responsible.”
Ram Kumar Bhandari, who is leading the dissident group of conflict victims, said the government should not waste time and amend the act, strengthening the existing mechanisms to enable to complete their work.
The TRC and the CIEDP, which were formed in February 2015 to investigate conflict-era rights violations, have so far failed to completely investigate even a single case. And one of the major reasons for this failure is the lack of necessary legislation, besides human and financial resources crunch and their internal weaknesses. The two commissions have said they can function well only if they are ensured act amendment, adequate budget and human resources.