Conflict victims mount pressure on leaders to amend transitional justice Act

Kathmandu , June 6th 2019

With the hearing of a review petition filed by the government against a 2015 Supreme Court ruling on transitional justice set for Thursday, victims of the decade-long Maoist insurgency have been reaching out to political leaders to demand amendments to the transitional justice act.

In 2015, the court had struck down around a dozen of ambiguous provisions in the transitional justice act, including ones that proposed amnesty to those guilty of serious human rights violations during the conflict, which claimed nearly 17,000 lives.

Victims’ groups have been meeting with political leaders to ensure that the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014 is amended in line with the court’s ruling and international practices at the ongoing session of the federal parliament.

Over the past week, the Conflict Victims’ Common Platform, an umbrella body of victims’ organisations, has met with at least four leaders from the two major political parties, asking them to conclude the transitional justice process in a transparent manner.

“We decided to reach out to individual leaders to express our concerns as the parties are not paying heed to our call to amend the Act, which is necessary to bring perpetrators of serious human rights violations to book,” said Janak Raut, general secretary of the platform.

According to Raut, conflict victims met with Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal and three Nepali Congress leaders—Ram Chandra Poudel, Purna Bahadur Khadka, and Ramesh Lekhak.

The government is also yet to appoint officials at the two transitional justice bodies—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. The two commissions have been without officials since April 14.

The truth commission has received over 63,000 complaints while the disappearance commission is sitting on around 3,000 cases from the victims.

Currently, the parties are holding negotiations to ensure that individuals of their choice are appointed in the commissions.

Earlier, officials in the two commissions were appointed under political parties’ quota. Conflict victims have for long said that the two commission failed to work in a transparent manner because party people were appointed there.

“We asked the leaders how long the victims will have to wait for the needed law,” Raut told the Post. “All of them said they are serious but they would not say when they are going to act.”

In the 2015 ruling, the Supreme Court also had ordered to categorise serious crimes, serious human rights violations and other crimes of a serious nature.

Four governments have changed since the ruling, but none took concrete steps to amend the Act.

Conflict victims, the United Nations, the international community and human rights organisations have time and again reminded the Nepal government of the court ruling.

During a meeting with conflict victims earlier this week, Law Minister Dhakal said he was making every possible effort to forge consensus on the amendment, according to Raut.

“He told us that top leaders need to make a political decision and that they have held meetings over a dozen times in the last few months,” said Raut.

The Congress party has entrusted Lekhak with the task of holding talks with leaders to find consensus on the Act amendment.

“Inter-party consultation is going on and we are waiting for the government’s call for further discussions,” Suman Adhikari, former chair of the platform who was in the meeting, quoted Lekhak as saying.

The two major parties—Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress—had listed around 22 points for the negotiations, but they are yet to find consensus on them.

The Conflict Victims Common Network, another group formed by the conflict victims, also has sought time for meetings with top leaders of political parties.

“It’s high time we started building more pressure—from various quarters—as political parties are showing no signs of amending the Act,” said Gopal Shah, vice-chair of the network.

According to Raut, conflict victims also asked the law minister to withdraw the review petition against a 2015 court ruling.

In April 2015, the Sushil Koirala administration had filed a review petition, challenging the ruling by a special bench led by then chief justice Kalyan Shrestha.

Meanwhile, top leaders held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss new leadership in the two transitional justice bodies and Act amendment.

The meeting between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba was attended by second-rung leaders of the two parties. The meeting, however, ended inconclusively, according to a leader present at the meeting.

The parties are making attempts to find consensus on sharing of portfolios in two commissions before Oli embarks on his nine-day Europe trip on Sunday.

“There will be further discussions on the issue,” said a leader present at the meeting on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media.

As the recommendation committee led by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra is set to hold its meeting on Monday, attempts are being made to find consensus on choosing officials for the two transitional justice commissions.

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