Nepal: 13 years on, no justice for conflict victims
Nepal has made no real progress on questions of justice, truth and reparations for victims of gross human rights violations and abuses during its 10-year conflict, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and TRIAL International said today. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the war was signed on 21 November 2006.
While two commissions have been set up to address conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective and impunity and denial of access to justice to victims remain prevalent. The four human rights organizations are particularly concerned about the recent moves that suggest that the government will go forward with the appointing of commissioners without making necessary reforms to the legal framework.
“Last week marked the 13thanniversary 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.”
No adequate consultation and transparency
On 18 November 2019, a five-member committee formed by the government to recommend names for commissioners to be appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances published a list of candidates. Concerns have been raised by victims and civil society that the government will simply re-appoint past commissioners or make political appointments that will not be adequately impartial and independent.
“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.
Importantly, the move suggests that the commissions will be re-constituted without amending the legal framework governing 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.
Strong legal foundations and political will
Victims and civil society organizations have issued a public statement making it clear that they oppose any appointments prior to the amendment of the legal framework. Notably, the National Human Rights Commission, in its statement commemorating 13thanniversary of CPA, stated that “…the commission will not support any decision, work or activities that might hurt the sensitivity of the conflict victims…”.
“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.
The ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL Internationalhave 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.
All four organisations reiterated their calls to amend the 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.