KATHMANDU, Feb 7: Parliament has endorsed the bill for extending the terms of the transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms, to give a new lease of life to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, for a year.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the bill that will extend the terms of the two commissions for a year at first and for a further year if needed. The commissions were formed to investigate conflict-era cases.
The twice-extended terms of the two commissions were to expire on Saturday. Formed in 2015 with a two-year deadline, the two commissions’ terms were extended for the first time in 2017 through a cabinet decision. The second extension came in 2018 through an amendment of the relevant act.
The TRC and CIEDP have been working on 61,000 and 3,000 complaints respectively. The TRC has concluded preliminary investigations into about 3,000 complaints while the CIEDP has investigated some 2,100 complaints.
Officials at the two commissions blame lack of resources and coordination for their sluggish progress while the conflict victims and stakeholders stress the need for their restructuring to make their work more effective.
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal informed parliament that the government has been working on a new law for transitional justice. Responding to lawmakers’ concerns during deliberations in the House, Dhakal said the government has introduced the bill to avoid a legal vacuum in view of the fast approaching term expiries.
“The government has been working on a draft of the new law to carry out the transitional justice tasks but we decided to extend the terms of the two bodies due to the short time remaining for discussions with stakeholders,” said Dhakal.
“The government appreciates the concern of lawmakers whether the existing structure, approach and pace of work of the two commissions will resolve the issues.” He further assured them that the government was committed to finding a permanent solution.
Earlier, during deliberations, former law minister and ruling Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Sher Bahadur Tamang questioned whether the TJ bodies would be able to conclude the peace process. “We cannot take the peace process to a conclusion with these two commissions. I urge the government to prepare another bill for their restructuring,” said Tamang.
The House rejected an amendment proposal to the bill registered by Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) lawmaker Prem Suwal.
The upper house of parliament had endorsed the bill unanimously on Sunday through a fast-track. The extension of terms of the two commissions will come into force after authentication of the bill by President Bidya Bhandari.
The bill doesn’t extend the terms of the office bearers at the two commissions. The bill gives the government authority to extend or not extend the terms of the office bearers. The office bearers may serve until mid-April.
TRC chief Gurung, member Udasi resign Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Surya Kiran Gurung and member Leela Udasi tendered their resignations on Wednesday.
The decision of the two officials comes after the government’s plan to appoint new individuals at the two transitional justice (TJ) commissions through an amendment bill. According to sources, both Gurung and Udasi have stated that they will be unable to serve in office from Sunday.
The two commissions comprise five office bearers each including a chairperson. The government had appointed the heads and members at the two commissions on February 11, 2015.