KATHMANDU, June 29: The government on Thursday tabled a bill to replace the ordinance introduced two months ago to extend the terms of two transitional justice bodies - Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP).
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Sher Bahadur Tamang tabled the bill at the National Assembly after the cabinet earlier in the day decided to replace the ordinance, which expires on July 7. An ordinance issued in the absence of parliament, must be replaced by a bill within 60 days of the commencement of the parliament session.
The cabinet meeting earlier in the day had decided to endorse the replacement bill through a fast-track process. As per the decision, the replacement bill was registered at the parliament secretariat and subsequently tabled at the House meeting suspending various parliamentary procedural provisions.
“The bill tabled in parliament today [Thursday] is for the purpose of replacing the ordinance that was earlier introduced to extend the terms of the two transitional bodies,” Minister Tamang told Republica.
The TRC and CIEDP at the time of their inception were given a one-year term. As they failed to complete their assigned tasks, the term was extended by a year. But they could not complete the work even within the extended period and the term was extended for a third time through an ordinance, and this ordinance needs to be replaced by a bill from parliament.
Meanwhile, the government is working to make changes to various provisions in the acts related to transitional justice through a separate bill.
“For other amendments, the government will bring a separate bill only after forging an understanding among the major political parties, conflict victims and other stakeholders,” said minster Tamang.
He said the new bill will be in line with the international law and international standards with regard to procedures while the provisions related to punishment will be as per the national criteria. “The revised law will be drafted with a plan to settle all the pending conflict-era issues,” he said.
The new bill to amend the transitional justice-related acts, which was formulated in the presence of the law minister, attorney general, former attorney generals and leaders of major parties, has stressed the need for reconciliation rather than prosecuting the perpetrators. It has proposed withdrawing cases now being investigated by the courts and bringing them under the transitional justice mechanisms.
The bill, which is currently under discussion, has also proposed reducing jail sentences through restriction on movements and the seizing of passports for three years, community service for three years, fines of up to Rs 500,000, and restrictions on contesting elections and nominations for public positions or promotions for three years.
A separate Transitional Justice Special Court will prosecute perpetrators once commission-level investigations are complete. Judges from the high courts recommended by the Judicial Council will man the special court.
Conflict victims, however, are skeptical whether the decision was made to avoid calls for revision being raised from side of the victims and civil society leaders. “The move taken to save the commission is okay. But if the bill is tabled for endorsing the TJ bill without consulting us that would be the biggest political betrayal for us,” said Bhagiram Chaudhary, chairman of the Conflict Victim Common Platform.